FORMER baseball player Sam Ewing said “success has a simple formula: do your best and people may like it.”
Perhaps Spanish singing superstar Julio Iglesias had a similar attitude at the beginning of his career, more than four decades ago. People all over the world like what the 70-year-old does.
Iglesias is the bestselling Latin music artist in history: he has released 80 albums, sold 300 million records in 14 languages,. and received 2,600 gold and platinum discs. Iglesias will perform at Dublin’s O2 Arena on May 15.
Iglesias turned 70 last September, yet his popularity continues to soar. A world tour that began in 2013 takes him to all the continents and his Dublin date will be his first here since 1982.
Speaking on the telephone from Miami, Iglesias admits to a howler at the beginning of that performance. “I have a stupid memory of the show,” he says in his distinctive broken English. “I came in from England and even though I am a lawyer — I have a law degree — I was a little nervous. I said to the audience, ‘I am very happy to be in the United Kingdom.’ There was a silence from 15,000 people and I asked myself, ‘what’s happening’?”
“So the promoter came on stage and said to me, ‘you are not in the United Kingdom — you are in Ireland.’ I said to the people that I am so sorry. I love Ireland and I sang ‘Begin the Beguine’ and the people started screaming. They forgave me.
“The biggest privilege in the life of an artist is to come back. And the Irish people have let me come back to that beautiful country, so I am so grateful for that.”
Iglesias has performed in 600 cities, and it is estimated that 60m people have seen him live. He is renowned for recording duets with artists from other genres — the list includes Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Plácido Domingo, Dolly Parton, Sting, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka and Art Garfunkel.
What propels him to continue with such a gruelling work schedule, now that he has reached 70?
“It’s the passion,” he says instantly. “The passion I have for doing things. I love what’s happening in my life and I am very grateful to the people. When I communicate with them, when I sing to them, it looks like a light comes back to me, in my eyes, in my brain, in my heart, in my body.
“Where else can I ask for a life like this? I am 70 years old and I can still reach out to the people, from Finland to China, and communicate to them and I am so grateful to be able to do that.”
Iglesias’ singing vocation began after a car crash ended his career as a professional soccer goalkeeper with Real Madrid Castilla. While recuperating in hospital, a nurse gave him a guitar and, in learning to play, he discovered his musical talent.
In 1968, Iglesias won the Benidorm International Song Festival and this led him to represent Spain in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest, singing his own song, ‘Gwendolyne’, and finishing fourth. ” ‘All Kinds of Everything’ was the winner,” he says, in reference to Ireland’s first success in the competition by Dana.
“I remember it well,” he says. “That time, it was musically much stronger that it is now. I remember ‘All Kinds of Everything’. I remember Dana. I remember the euphoria of the country when she won. I remember giving a kiss to Dana when she won. I remember it was an experience for my life to come.”
Iglesias says the Eurovision was the springboard that kickstarted his long and lofty career. “For the first time in my life, I performed in front of the whole of Europe. Then, in 1971, my life changed completely. Back then, I never expected to have such a long career.
“I never, in my life, expected to play and sing with Sinatra, with Plácido Domingo, with Willie Nelson, with Stevie Wonder, with Diana Ross, with everybody, really. In 1970/71, I was just a little baby trying to reach by my body, my heart, and my brains in three minutes.
“Today, they give me two hours. I have perfect contact with my brain and my heart, even if my body is not so strong. My heart and my brain, they are together all the time. If I continue to sell records, it is because I look for something in the song still. I don’t change the style of singing, if possible,” he says.
Last year, Iglesias received two historic awards to add to his already overburdened trophy cabinet. In Beijing, he was awarded The First and Most Popular International Artist of All Time in China, and he was one of the first five artists who entered the Latin Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in Miami.
Yet he is reticent to talk about all these awards, which include a Grammy.
“To be honest,” he says, “the biggest reward that I have are the people. When I’m asked to play in Ireland, or I do a gig in China, the people still are there for me. That’s the biggest award I have. I’ve been given so many awards in my life. But there’s a little moment when I go on the stage after a long life. That’s the award I love most,” he says. “I love to be with the people. The biggest support I’ve had in my life is the people.”
Over the years, Julio Iglesias has certainly done his best and the people have loved it. The rest is history.