Consuela Velazquez, author of perhaps the most famous bolero song of all time, “Besame Mucho,” died Jan. 22 of respiratory complications related to an earlier fall. She was 88.
Known as Consuelito, and “Chelo,” among friends, the vivacious, enthusiastic songwriter was deeply involved in politics and in union activities, but it is her musical legacy that will most be remembered, particularly the mournful, pleading tune she wrote in 1941, “Besame Mucho,” or Kiss Me A Lot.
Velazquez was only 25 when she wrote it, and, ironically, had never been kissed. “Nobody had ever even brushed my lips,” she was fond of saying. Yet the song and its theme of parting lovers spoke loudly to departing soldiers and their sweethearts in the height of the Second World War. It was an instant hit, appearing in the Mexican film “Lo que solo el hombre puede sufrir,” (What only men can suffer) in 1942 and in dozens more over the decades, from 1956’s Oscar winning “Giant” to 1998’s “Great Expectations,” which was directed by Mexican Alfonso Cuaron, and the recent “In Good Company.”
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The song has been translated into more than 20 languages; there have been six films made with that title and another, Czech, film is currently in production, not to mention the less than memorable Spanish-German co-production “Besame Monstruo” (Kiss Me, Monster).
“Besame Mucho” has been covered by Placido Domingo, Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall, Celine Dion and hundreds more, and won Velazquez awards around the world.
Born in Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco, legend has it she began playing piano at the age of 4. She became a master teacher at the age of 17, while also playing at the National Symphony Orchestra before moving on to radio at the nation’s most important station XEW, in 1938.
Consuelito composed continuously since that time, writing classics such as “Amar y Vivir” (To live and to love), “Cachito,” “Que Seas Feliz,” (May you be happy) “Enamorada” (In love) and “Amor sobre Ruedas” (Love on the move). She continued composing until nearly the end, despite health problems, and in early January an American published signed a deal with her to release her latest songs, “Donde Siempre,” “Por el Camino” and “Mi Bello Mazatlan.”
She found time to serve as the president of the Mexican Society of Authors and Composers and later as vice president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers. And, from 1979 to 1982, she was even a Federal Congresswoman.
She is survived by two children.