Julio Iglesias still speaks the language of love

Having proclaimed being Jewish ‘from the waist up,’ the legendary Latin crooner is excited to bring his passion back to Israel.

Julio Iglesias 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Julio Iglesias 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Don’t be surprised if Julio Iglesias soon applies for Israeli citizenship. The celebrated romantic crooner has spent more time in the country than most Knesset members, with two sold-out shows at the Caesaria Amphitheater in August, following similar events in 2009 and 2011, and a return engagement scheduled for November 24 at the Hechal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv.
And according to the 70-year-old romantic balladeer, he’d have no problem immigrating under the Law of Return. Iglesias told his Tel Aviv audience in 2009 that his mother was of Jewish heritage and he was Jewish “from the waist up.” And in a talk with The Jerusalem Post last week from him home in Indian Creek Island, Florida, the native of Madrid, Spain, while not elaborating on that hint of a Jewish ritual not performed, elaborated on his family’s Jewish background.
“I’ve known my whole life about my family’s Jewish past, there were lots of conversations in my house about the Inquisition and about Sephardim,” said Iglesias in heavily accented English. “My mother’s name – de la Cueva y Perignat – was a very Jewish name.”
Iglesias added that he proudly proclaimed his Jewish heritage wherever he goes, and that in turn, he feels strengthened by it, especially when he visits Israel.
“The world understands that Jews are a race that use their customs and character to make the world a better place. And when I’m in Israel, I see something completely unique taking place. I see a very strong Jewish country and I see Spanish Jews, Russians, Argentineans all with one motivation – to keep Israel safe. And that touches my heart.”
Iglesias, the prototype dark, Latin ladies’ man, has himself been touching hearts since releasing his first album in the late 1960s, after an injury from a traffic accident forced him to give up his burgeoning career as a goalkeeper for Real Madrid.
“It’s a good thing that happened, because if I hadn’t had that accident, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. I wasn’t a very good football player, and I would have probably ended up being a lawyer, but I probably would have closer to being a liar,” Iglesias said, breaking out in a boisterous guffaw.
Instead, he became one of the most successful singers of the past half century, with over 300 million albums sold in 14 languages and the Guinness Book of World Records crown as “the biggest selling Latin artist in the world.”
His duets with singers ranging from Frank Sinatra to Willie Nelson to Placido Domingo have become things of legend, and the population growth in countries where he appears on his stillbusy touring schedule spike around nine months after his concerts.
That’s actually not a scientific fact, but an educated guess, because Iglesias and his velvety voice are known to melt listeners and create a seductive atmosphere. As he enters his 70s, the singer admitted that he has to work at his craft more to stay on top of his game.
“I’ve never been a guy with a big voice, so I need to take care of it and myself,” he said.
“Imagine me at 250 pounds and no hair, it just wouldn’t work. But it’s a joy to take care of myself, eating right and exercising. Because, as you get older, being onstage is not so easy. Ask Phil Collins, or Elton John or Paul McCartney, they will tell you.”
Given his mega-success as well as varied and lucrative business interests that would allow him to never work another day in his life, it’s puzzling why the father of eight would even consider heading out on the road anymore. (In addition to his superstar chip-off-the-old-block son Enrique Iglesias from his first marriage, Iglesias has five children, including a six-year-old, with Dutch ex-model Miranda Rijnsburger).
But as he explained, when you’ve been a performer for as long as he has, it becomes part of your reason to get up in the morning.
“I’m tied up most of the time with my various businesses, and for me, to sing is my freedom. It’s the way my blood runs through my body,” said Iglesias.
“You can have problems with your family, you can feel every day of your 70 years, and you go out onstage and you feel like you’re 25. It’s amazing.”
While Iglesias had just finished a 10-day stint in the studio recording 50 songs, he said that he far prefers the immediacy of performing before an audience. And thanks to updated technology, he claimed that his songs sound clearer live than on tape.
“I travel with probably the two best sound engineers in the world, and it doesn’t matter if I’m playing for 3,000 or 30,000 people, the sound is always amazing – it’s better than a studio recording.”
“And even more important, the relationship between the audience and the artist is something very special and strong that can’t be captured in the studio.”
Despite his old-school ethic (all the sounds from the stage come from him or his nine-piece band) Iglesias said he understands the modern phenomenon of pop stars using playbacks and lip-synching as part of their show, as Rihanna recently did in Tel Aviv.
“Performers today dance and move around a lot, and I agree that it’s impossible to sing well when you’re moving,” he said. “Jumping around like that makes it impossible to breathe, and I understand that young audiences and performers want to see the spectacle, including the dancing – they want a show.”
With Iglesias, however, his presence and his voice is the show, no dancing or jumping around required. And the fact that he’s been asked back to perform in Israel only a few months after his summer shows is evidence that he’s doing something right.
“When I’m invited to come back to perform someplace, like I have been to Israel, it’s an amazing privilege for me,” he said. “The people of Israel have given me the opportunity to come back to their country.”
“I was just talking to [tennis star] Rafael Nadal about this – how champions cannot live without passion,” he said. “In Tel Aviv, I’m going to give my passion to the people, because it’s the only way they’ll come back to see you again. Without passion, you don’t have anything.”