Chavela left her mark in the world and today continues to be one of Latin America’s biggest icons. During her day, she became famous by singing renditions and songs by legendary ranchera composers like Agustin Lara and Jose Alfredo Jimenez. Today, she continues to influence artists around the world not only in the music industry, but also in film, including Spanish director Pedro Almodovar who featured her songs in many of his films and considers her music a muse for his work.
In honor of the theatrical release of the movie CHAVELA (Music Box Films), which will be premiering in select markets starting October 6 and in the rest of the U.S. October 13, here is a list of artists who have covered some of her most iconic songs. Which is your favorite?
Lila Downs is known for reviving and maintaining Mexican folklore with her music, clothing and persona. Check out her cover of “Paloma Negra” which she sang during a concert where Chavela Vargas herself was present.
In that same concert, the Tijuana-born singer Julieta Venegas had the opportunity to perform “Las Ciudades,” Manuel Arroyo’s favorite song, who was one of Chavela’s friends and would ask her to perform it every Friday when he visited in “El Habito”. He also helped Chavela to enter the Spanish market and to expand her success across the country.
Natalia LaFourcade is currently on a mission to let the world know about the singers who influenced her. She recently released the album Musas (Muses) where she gives tribute to legendary singers like Omara Portuondo and is currently touring with Miguel Peña and Juan Carlos Allende (better known as Los Macorinos) as her back-up musicians who first broke on the scene by being Chavela’s own guitar duo during her comeback in the early 2000s. Natalia covered “Piensa En Mi”, a song originally written by Agustin Lara and made even more famous by Chavela.
Longtime fan of Chavela, Eugenia Leon covered one of Chavela’s most famous songs “La Llorona.” She also appears in the film and talks about the struggle Chavela faced during her life for being a lesbian in a society that wouldn’t allow her to express freely that part of herself off of the stage.
La Santa Cecilia
The Latin Grammy-winning Angelino band La Santa Cecilia is becoming a powerhouse with their influences of Bolero and honoring of Mexican and Latin American musical roots. Here they cover “En El Ultimo Trago” alongside Eugenia Leon.
Chavela is directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi
Chavela is the captivating look at the unconventional life of beloved performer Chavela Vargas, whose passionate renditions of Mexican popular music and triumphant return to the stage late in life brought her international fame.
Born in Costa Rica in 1919, Chavela Vargas ran away to Mexico City as a teenager to sing in the streets. By the 1950’s, she became a household name in her adopted country, delivering her performances with a raw passion and unique voice. Just as influential were her cultural contributions; Chavela was a bold, rebellious, sexual pioneer who was known for haing many female lovers at a time when being out in Mexico was dangerous.
Chavela centers around a 1991 interview – the singer’s first public appearance after 15 hard years lost to alcoholism and heartbreak. In the final years of her life, Chavela openly comes out as a lesbian and rises into her momentous third act, becoming a music to filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, earning a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY, and selling out performances at prestigious concert halls around the world.