Agustin Lara, one of Mexico's most popular singers and composers

Agustín Lara was a very famous man, but he was always alone, and perhaps thanks to that solitude he made his songs into true poems, according to specialists in the field.

Agustin Lara, one of Mexico's most popular singers and composers
Agustín Lara was a very famous man, but he was always alone, and perhaps thanks to that solitude he made his songs into true poems, according to specialists in the field. Photo: Wikimedia

Known as "El Flaco de Oro", Ángel Agustín María Carlos Fausto Mariano Alfonso Rojas Canela del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Lara y Aguirre del Pino, was born on October 30, 1900. Some of his biographers affirm that he was in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, while others claim that he was in Mexico City in 1897, and others in 1901.

His death occurred on November 6, 1970, his parents were Joaquín Lara and Mara Aguirre del Pino. His childhood was spent in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, from where the family had to move to the Mexican capital. They established their new home in Coyoacán, with the help of Refugio Aguirre del Pino, the older sister of the composer's mother, who was the director of the hospice where Agustín had his first contact with the harmonium, an instrument used in the center.

His passion for music began at an early age when he heard his father play the piano at home. However, it was her aunt Remedios with whom she improvised her first notes. Since the composer began his taste for musical art, his father was strongly opposed to such inclinations, so when he was 12 years old he threw him out of the house for coming late from a bullfighting gathering.

Later, Agustín was also imprisoned for robbery. Given his economic needs, he worked as a pianist in a "Ladies Club", where he had his first income and faced the rigors of life. His father, who was not in Mexico City, was surprised to find him in that place, which filled him with indignation and provoked the determination to confine him to the Military College.

Agustin Lara spent a year in that school, where he failed, which got his father to send him to Durango, to a heavy job. At Mrs. Lara's request, he was pardoned and re-entered the Military College. In 1927, freed from that discipline, he took the musical path. He worked in a cabaret on the course of Santa Mara la Redonda, where, as a result of an impulse of jealousy, a woman wounded him in the face with a bottle.

By 1929 he began to work on his songs, made friends with impact singers such as Maruca Pérez, Juan Arvizu, and the Trío Garnica Ascencio, who began to interpret his compositions. In 1930, at a time when broadcasting gained popularity, a new radio station was launched that included the new author, who performed songs that were soon heard throughout Mexico.

Thus, Agustin Lara's La hora íntima was characterized by the premiere in each program of one or several songs of his inspiration. His theme Granada went around the world in the voices of famous artists, while some of the titles of countless boleros of his own inspiration are Aventurera, Pecadora, and Te vendes; he created approximately 700 melodies and the operetta El pájaro de oro.

He also participated in 30 films and his songs went around the world, making him one of the best-known composers of popular music and, consequently, the texts of his songs were translated into many languages. His repertoire also includes themes such as Veracruz, Madrid, Palmera, Lamento jarocho, Farolito, Mujer, Santa, Señora Tentación, Novillero, Rosario and Noche Criolla, to name but a few.

His sentimental life was prodigal in romances, as he was linked to Angelina Brusquetta, Yolanda Gazca, Clara Martínez, Irma Palencia, and Vianey Lárraga, to name a few. His first marriage was in 1939 with Carmen "La Chata" Zozaya. But his great love, as he himself confessed, was the legendary actress María Félix. They married on December 24, 1954, and he dedicated many love songs to her like María bonita, Noche de ronda, and Aquel amor.

As the composer had no offspring, he adopted Vianey Lárraga's son, whom he named Agustín. Rocío Durán was his last wife, with whom he married in 1965 in Spain. In 1967, due to his precarious health, he withdrew from the artistic environment until he remained isolated from everyone, in his home on the corner of Edgar Allan Poe and Homer of the Colonia Polanco.

He died in the English Hospital of Mexico City on November 6, 1970, and was veiled in the Theater of the Society of Authors and Composers of Music, from where he was transferred on the 7th to the Palace of Fine Arts. The president of that time, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, ordered that he be buried in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men, together with the composers of the Mexican National Anthem, in the Pantheon of Dolores.

Agustin Lara was a very famous man, but he was always alone, and perhaps thanks to that solitude he made his songs into true poems, according to specialists in the field. A few years ago, he was honored with an album recorded by the Orquesta Aragón titled Solamente una vez, de Cuba a Lara (Only Once from Cuba to Lara), presented this material in a concert with the participation of various Cuban musicians in Mexico City, on the eve of the birthday anniversary.

In 2011, he was remembered 111 years after his birth through music at the Maria Teresa Montoya Theater, with two performances organized by Opera Mexico. Ten singers participated, including Doris, known as "La Voz del Bolero," mezzo-soprano Linda Saldaña, tenor Rodrigo García Arroyo and Sergio Meneses, who is the artistic director.

Of the songs that were performed that October 30 are found: Veracruz, Noche criolla, Solamente una vez, Amor de mis amores, Granada, Novillero and Madrid, among others. Another recognition that was made was from the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra, which with its intention of bringing cultured music to the public dedicated a concert with repertoire of the artist.

Likewise, the book Mi novia la tristeza by Guadalupe Loaeza and Pável Granados was presented at the Centro Estudiantil of TAMIU, a text in which the life and music of the famous poet and composer is captured. The melodies of the singer-songwriter have been interpreted by many artists, as they have done in various presentations soprano Olivia Gorra and Eugenia Leon among others.

In August 2012, Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade released the DVD Mujer Divina, a tribute to Agustín Lara. In the double album Lafourcade performed duets with Miguel Bosé, Leonardo de Lozanne, Gilberto Gil, Emmanuel del Real (Café Tacvba), DLD and Kevin Johansen, among others.

Some of the songs included are Divine Woman, Almsgiving, Farolito, La Fugitiva, Piensa en mí, Amor de mis amores, Oración caribe, Azul, María bonita, to name a few. On November 6, 2012, he was remembered 42 years after his death at the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres del Panteón Dolores, in the Mexican capital, where family members and followers performed his songs.

In 2013, the album in which Lafourcade evoked Lara's sensitivity reached the Platinum Record for high sales, with more than 60 thousand copies sold. On October 30, 2013, the Google search engine remembered Lara with a caricature of the composer as a reminder of the 113th anniversary of her birth.

In November of the same year, Lafourcade was awarded the Latin Grammy in the category of Best Alternative Music Album and Best Music Video for the album Mujer divina, a tribute to Agustín Lara. The Agustín Lara 2014 Festival, held from November 4 to 8, was held in venues such as Veracruz, Xalapa, and Tlacotalpan.