Although the name Manolo Escobar may not be familiar outside Spain, his most famous song certainly is. “Y viva España” was produced in 1973 and was the most successful Spanish song in history, selling 16 million copies between1973 and 1992. In Spain Manolo Escobar has been a household name for many decades.
Manolo Escobar, whose full name was Manuel García Escobar, was born in Almería in 1931 and died recently in Benidorm on 24th October 2013 at the age of 82. He was the fifth of ten siblings and came from a humble family which moved from peasant farming to the hotel industry. Shortly after the Civil War the family gave lodging to a music teacher Antonio Manzano who had lost his wife and child in the war. In return Antonio gave music lessons to all the children of the family, who became consummate pianists, guitarists, singers and songwriters. Manolo started playing the lute and piano, but soon became the singer of the family. With two of his brothers playing the guitar, he started his career singing at local weddings and parties.
At the age of 14 Manolo and his brothers moved to Barcelona where he had a variety of day jobs and entertained at weekends, singing songs written by two of his brothers. After winning several talent competitions, Manolo also started appearing in films and variety shows. After the release of the group’s first record, Manolo left his job in a sub-post office and embarked on a full-time musical career.
In 1959 Manolo married his German girlfriend of 3 months, Anita Marx, before either of them could speak each other’s language. The couple had one daughter Vanessa, and the marriage lasted 53 years, until his death.
Manolo Escobar rose to national fame in the 1960s in a period when the Spanish song (copla) was at its lowest ebb of popularity. Despite this unfavourable musical climate Manolo had many best selling records and appeared in 24 films. In the early nineties he moved to Benidorm and in 2010 it was announced that he was suffering from colonic cancer. He appeared in the World Cup celebration party in Madrid in 2010 where he sang “Y viva España” and finally announced his retirement on national television in 2012.
Manolo Escobar was a man of great energy and optimism. Near the end of his life he said on national radio: “I may not be the best singer in Spain, but I know I am the most loved”.