One of the joys of writing essays is the sidebar conversations I have with readers.
For the past few months, I have been corresponding with a reader with connections to Ajijic. In response to my "Summertime" essay, he informed me he had a favorite song: "Bésame Mucho" sung by Diana Krall. This is the link he forwarded to me.
It is a very pleasant rendition of what was once one of my favorite Mexican boleros. And there is a tale in that "once."
Our local area is chockablock with performers. Some are quite good. Others range from mediocre to painfully bad. But no matter how talented the singer, almost all of them will inevitably start warbling "Bésame, bésame mucho/ Como si fuera esta noche la última vez" sometime during their set.
For me, the song is right up there with "Guantanamera" and "Girl from Ipanema." The three songs have been reduced to what should be a performer's worst nightmare: cliché. The equivalent of reading Hallmark greeting cards aloud to an audience.
But the songs are sung because audiences are prone to respond to the familiar. As several performers have told me woefully: Audiences know what they like -- and they like what they know.
That is fair enough. But it is not why I seek out live performances. And I have heard The Big Three performed creatively.
A local performer deconstructed "Guantanamera" in a clever bit of progressive jazz. Other than the chord relationships, the tune was not immediately recognizable without careful analysis. I loved it.
But my cliché aversion is not the primary reason I can no longer enjoy "Bésame Mucho" played straight. Whenever I hear the opening notes, I start chuckling so hard I need to exit the room.
One of my favorite movies is the 1988 romantic comedy Moon Over Parador. Richard Dreyfus plays an actor filming in an unnamed Latin American dictatorship. The head of the national security police drafts him to play the role of the deceased dictator.
One of the running gags is the country's national anthem -- based on popular songs. First, "O, Tannebaum," replaced by "Bésame Mucho." With lyrics hilarious in their vapidity.
How could anyone sit through a serious rendition of "Bésame Mucho" after that?
If you have not seen Moon Over Parador, I highly recommend it. I have it on DVD. If you drop by the house, we can have an impromptu movie night.
And what makes it so special? Well, it does star my wife, Sonia Braga (steve spills a secret). Here's a sample.