Remembering two late, great musical talents

César Portillo de la Luz was my favorite bolero composer I never knew about, until this Monday when I heard a report on Public Radio International’s (PRI) “The World.”

The Cuban musician passed away last week, at 90, but leaves behind beautiful work, including my favorite romantic ballad “Contigo en la Distancia,” among others, which I did not know he composed.

¿Se acuerdan cuando back in the 90’s Luis Miguel came out with his “Romances” CD? We all thought nobody could sing a romantic tune like he could. Pues little did I know that César Portillo de la Luz had a wonderful original recording of Contigo en la Distancia that totally mesmerizes just as you hear it. It was recorded back in the 1940’s; he plays the guitar and sings it beautifully. ¡Que Luismi ni que Luismi! No le llega ni a los talones.

Betto Arcos, who was the reporter of this radio piece/appreciation on The World, mentioned that Mr. Portillo de la Luz was part of a musical style from Cuba called “Feeling,” which was inspired by American jazz and composers like George and Ira Gershwin. Y sí que eran puro “feeling” en todo lo que hacían. All you hear is the passion behind the music and lyrics. 

Please take a listen to this fabulous radio piece, it won’t even take 5 minutes of your time and you’ll really enjoy it. The song Contigo a la Distancia is included. ¡Creo que ya me enamoré!

The link is here:

Listen to this radio piece on Cesar Portillo de la Luz on The World, originally aired May 13, 2013. Reporter is Betto Arcos.

Listen to this radio piece on Cesar Portillo de la Luz on The World, originally aired May 13, 2013. Reporter is Betto Arcos. Click on the link or on the image to go to the site.

Another musical talent that we probably won’t see the likes of anytime soon passed away 15 years ago today on May 14th, 1998.

His name was...Frank Sinatra.

Ol' Blue Eyes. A stamp honoring Mr Frank Sinatra.

Ol’ Blue Eyes. A stamp honoring Mr Frank Sinatra.

How can I describe what I feel when I hear “New York, New York” every single time it is played? Or “I Got You Under My Skin,” or “Fly Me to the Moon,” or you name it! Joy, bliss, happiness…that voice, that music. He was something else, an entertainer con todos los talents: he could sing, act, make you laugh, and make you cry.

Por eso decían por ahí, “It’s Frank’s world, we just live in it.”

The LA Times had a little note about him today, which I’ve added below. It was originally published in 1998.

Read until the very end, how his Grandmother saved his life on the day he was born. I guess the world was not meant to be deprived of his music and Frank Sinatra was meant to be.

Frank Sinatra

Born Francis Albert Sinatra on Dec. 12, 1915 inHoboken, NJ

Frank Sinatra was a talented and temperamental balladeer who dominated popular music longer than any entertainer before him and clung to his legendary life as tenaciously as he had stuck with the audiences he loved.

Sinatra’s masterful interpretation and flawless execution of some of America’s most beloved songs earned his reputation as the most influential popular singer of the 20th century. His accomplishments broadened to include film, with such roles as his Academy Award-winning performance in “From Here to Eternity.”

For more than three generations, his name was synonymous with talent and taste. In the late 1930s, his fragile frame and painfully shy expressions made swooning, shrieking fools of the normally normal teenage girls standing by the bandstands where he first earned his living at $75 a week. In the 1960s he gathered in millions as both partner and star in the clubs of Las Vegas.

Sinatra had good cause to be angry from the moment he entered the world Dec. 12, 1915. He was a 13-pound baby, and birth was difficult. He was to bear on his neck the rest of his life the scars of the doctor’s forceps.

The doctor concluded that the baby was lost and concentrated on saving the mother, Natalie “Dolly” Sinatra, a nurse and midwife. But the grandmother, Rosa Garavanti, picked up the newborn child and held him under a cold water tap until he began to choke and cry — and breathe.

— Burt A. Folkart in the Los Angeles Times May 16, 1998

An instagram pic by yours truly: Frank Sinatra painted on an aluminum rolling door int he middle of Hollywood Blvd. (Photo CBGRAPHY 2011)

An instagram pic by yours truly: Frank Sinatra painted on an aluminum rolling door on the Hollywood Blvd. walk of fame. (Photo CBGRAPHY 2011)