Twelve Spanish Songs — Español-English

I have completed a project that is of great significance to me, but of little importance otherwise (isn’t this true of most of what everybody accomplishes?). Like the Little Red Rooster jumping up to the barn roof at dawn to wake up the world to his pride of place, I am sending out this notice about my new work.

For many reasons, because of my family, ethnicity, first language, cultural inclinations, artistic interests, and time and place in history (20th century US Latino), I have been interested for some time to learn, and translate into English, some of the most beloved and enduring Spanish songs of the 20th century.

Toward that end, I have selected twelve Spanish language songs — most of which I can remember hearing from my earliest days — and then sought out (through the ease of the Internet, and sheet music) the earliest and likely authentic lyrics, and devised poetic translations of them. By “poetic translations” I mean English language poems that faithfully convey the Spanish language intent of the originals, and are as close to literal translations as can be achieved without sacrificing the metric and rhyming structure of the Spanish language originals — or at least approaches that ideal.

There is no doubt that better English language poems could be devised to fit the music if one gave up any connection to the original Spanish lyrics. But that was not my aim. I wanted to convey the word flow and sentiment, and as much of the word-images and metaphors of the originals as I could, in English language poems that had their own degree of elegance and fluidity, fitting the music.

Working on this project has improved my Spanish reading and writing a bit, which was worthwhile since neither is that good.

The results of this work appear as twelve entries on this blog — one per song. Each such blog posting gives a few details about the song’s composer, before displaying the Spanish language lyrics (and notes about them, since there are always variations). After that, I show my own poetic translation.

For a view of the shortcomings of a purely literal translation (as well as the shortcomings of computer translators) just copy the Spanish lyrics I provide into Google Translator (or an equivalent) and observe the results in Bizzaro Speak.

After each of my poetic translations of a Spanish song, I list a number of music video performances of that song, posted at YouTube. I also give a capsule summary of each such music video.

The intent of each blog entry is to present the song in as original a form as I can find, to give the briefest of historical context for it, to give my “singable” English version, and then list a series of performances that show why that song has endured through many periods of 20th century musical tastes, and in numerous cultures. These songs are good music, and good music is eternal and unconfined by the boundaries that human groups segregate themselves with.

The primary audience for this project is my own children, who I hope gain something of my ancestors’ culture by it. It is possible that vocal music students interested in this repertoire could gain from these postings; and perhaps amateur poets may also find something of value here.

As I said, in the whole scheme of things this is an inconsequential accomplishment, but nevertheless: COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!

The list of twelve web-links can be found at the “About” web-page for this blog, and are also listed here for convenience.

Bésame Mucho, Español-English
23 December 2013

Cucurrucucú Paloma, Español-English
23 December 2013

Frenesí — Español-English
12 October 2014

Historia de un amor — Español-English
30 September 2014

Júrame — Español-English
9 October 2014

Lágrimas Negras — Español-English
14 November 2013

Nuestro Juramento — Español-English
23 June 2014

Perfidia — Español-English
13 October 2014

Quiéreme Mucho — Español-English
13 October 2014

Siempre En Mi Corazón — Español-English
4 October 2014

(listed in alphabetical order)

And after 15 October 2014:

Sabor a mí — Español-English
19 October 2014

Siboney — Español-English
22 October 2014



See “About” for songs added after 2014