Raphael (Linares, Jaen, 78 years old) asks to be treated as “you”, despite the fact that the style book of this publication dictates that the interviews are made of you and we will do so. “You’ve known me forever,” he clarifies, even though we’ve never met before. But it’s true: we know him, Raphael has always been there. It is one of those few absolutely transversal icons that Spain has: it is popular in all age ranges, they can hum the refrains of their greatest hits centennials, grandparents and boomers and you can listen to him with fervor, with tenderness, with irony and almost any type of feeling that the RAE knows how to describe. His best known songs have so much subtext and so many possibilities (of My big night a Whatever they say, from Scandal a I am the one) that one can sing them to refer to the political situation, a lack of love, a personal revenge or a torn confession. And if there was still someone to discover him, the four-episode documentary series Raphaelísimo, that Movistar + will premiere on January 13, promises to solve it.
This year Raphael continues on his crusade to take that transversality further by putting his foot in music in streaming (which is not so foreign to him either: on a popular platform, My big night exceeds 50 million listens, on YouTube, 45 million views). The one he has chosen is Apple Music and his work consists of a playlist arriving just in time for these dates: a selection of your favorite Christmas carols, ranging from contemporary classics like All I want for christmas is you by Mariah Carey o One more year from Mecano to classics like Happy Xmas (War is over) of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the surrender of Silent Night by Sinatra or some of his repertoire, such as The drummer, because Raphael has never hidden a certain vanity. In fact, it is part of its charm.
What element must a Christmas carol have to be perfect? Could have made a thousand lists, actually. But there are two must-have things you must have. The first is popular hook. The wonderful Christmas carols, with a lot of class, which are the best, like Silent Night The The drummer, have less outlet in Latin countries, where it is more popular, for example, The fish in the river. It has a popular, easy and simple handwriting that children understand well. They have to have charm, be funny.
The classic The drummer, Apart from you, it has been covered by artists of all time. Do you have a favorite? Yes, that of Joan Baez. I like that he sings it in a more classical way.
You have been a fixed figure in the Christmas Eve of Spain for many years with its specials. What advice would you give to artists faced with that task instead? Have a lot of patience (laughs). It’s complicated, it’s complicated … You have to think about the audience you are going to have: What kind of audience is going to see you? Get at their height and talk to them face to face, without elaborate words, and sing the same way, simply and without elaborateness. In a simple and normal way.
Do you like Christmas? I like it, yes, as long as there are children. I have been very lucky because my children grew up, but they have had their own children and there are still children, eight, who continue to enjoy Christmas.
What is your best memory of these dates? I think my best memories of these dates are from when my parents lived and we were all, at the beginning. Then, once married, you start another life. It wasn’t until my children were one age, six or seven, that I enjoyed Christmas again.
And the worst? I don’t have any bad memories. What happens is that Christmas has not always caught me in Spain, but yes, we have always celebrated it as a family wherever we were. If we were in the United States, then in the United States. If we were in Mexico, then in Mexico. And we celebrated it in the Spanish way.
What is the most remote place where they have celebrated it? I think the strangest Christmas for us, or at least the most different, has been in Russia. Of course, Russian is a very romantic person, he looks a lot like Latin, actually.
If I’m not mistaken, you actually have a lot of fans in Russia. More than anywhere!
How it happened? Because my films have been screened there and in those days they were dubbed from Spanish into Russian, except for the songs. The first was Say What They Say, a tremendous success. And people began to learn Spanish to understand the songs. One of the most beautiful awards I have is from the University of Moscow. Today, if you go to Russia, there are Spanish-speaking interpreters in businesses such as hotels or museums from that generation, in their forties, from when my films were screened there for the first time.
What gift do you remember that you were excited to receive as a child? Well, surely, as a child, nothing expensive. Maybe a flute, always musical stuff. In my house as a child there was no place for any kind of luxury.
And what gift were you excited to give as an adult? All the gifts that I have given to my children or my wife have moved me. Sometimes the gift is not what it is worth. One does not look at how much it will have cost. It is enough that they have remembered you.
You have performed with all kinds of artists in your Christmas finery, but what artist who was never there would have you been excited to include in them? I would have loved it, but it was totally impossible, to act with Elvis. When I saw him, in Las Vegas, he was bad. And after a few months he died. That is the impossible, but all the others I have been fulfilling.
Did you have a chance to meet him? No, just from the stage.
And what other figures that you admire have you had the opportunity to meet? To many people… To Edith Piaf, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka…
None were unfriendly? Some warn with that of “do not know your idols …”. No. No great character in show business is usually unfriendly. And they are also very close, they immediately put themselves in your place and, knowing that you are also an artist, they already enter the business of asking how you are doing, what are you doing now, “I saw you in such a place” … I remember that in Toronto, Tony Bennett saw me and said, “I can’t believe who you are!” It was the first time I saw him, we did a TV show together, and we were both delighted to get to know each other.
What advice would you give Spaniards to have a peaceful dinner this Christmas with their families? Don’t talk politics, please!
But that is very difficult right now, everything is politics. Well, talk about vaccines!
It makes me worse. It is the only thing that will unite us, the vaccine. Look, they better talk about soccer.
Do these conflicting opinion conversations happen at your dinner parties? We try to talk about ourselves, about the family, how we’re doing, what a good year we’ve had, we watch my Christmas program …
Do you watch your own Christmas show? I have to see myself to see the things that are not right. When you are doing it you do not realize and how there is no time, because we always go with the time stuck … So at home you see it and you see the things that you have not done well, those that not so well, those that you would take away but no longer you can and those that you would add, that you can’t anymore.
What have you done to be able to like all Spaniards, almost unanimously? Do you believe? What a great Christmas gift to know that! I don’t think anyone can consider me unpleasant because I am not … It is very difficult for everyone to like me.
What do you ask of 2022? Get vaccinated, please.
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