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In Miami, the central destination for Latin pop stars, concerts by international heartthrobs are held every day. Even so, Thursday's show by Spanish singer Miguel Bosé at the James L. Knight Center is special, for Bosé is no ordinary Latin artist.
After more than three decades in the music business, Bosé has created an independent and enigmatic persona. His work, miles away from the contemporary Spanish bubblegum pop, focuses on adult lyrical themes and explores exotic electronic beats. This penchant for artistic adventuresomeness led the New York Times to label him the "Spanish David Byrne," and with 21 albums under his belt, he remains one of the top-selling Latin singers in the world.
Never one to do things halfway, Bosé decided last year to go all out and commemorate his 30th anniversary in the music business by producing Papito, in which he revisited his 15 greatest hits. But for a new twist, he recruited an accompanying star singer for each track. Among the guests: Shakira, Juanes, Ricky Martin, and even R.E.M's Michael Stipe.
"It wasn't an easy album to make," the 51-year-old Bosé admits via cell phone while taking a break from a Spanish Rolling Stone photo shoot in Madrid. "Even though I knew all the singers personally, I couldn't just call them up and ask them to be on my album. I had to go first through their record labels and obtain the proper releases. Once that was out of the way, I called all the artists to coordinate the recordings, and that was difficult as well because many of them were busy touring. In the end, it took me 11 months just to record all the songs."
Still, Bosé found the opportunity to revisit his landmark songs priceless. "For me it was a really exciting experience, because many of the younger singers were actually inspired by my work, and it was a real treat to see how they added their own style to my compositions," he says.
Born in 1956, Bosé has always lived in the spotlight. His father is the late Luís Miguel Dominguín, Spain's famed top bullfighter, and his mother is Lucia Bosé, a celebrated Italian actress known for her roles in films such as Federico Fellini's Satirycon. His celebrity parentage offered Bosé a childhood most people can only dream about. Family friends such as Ernest Hemingway and Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti often frequented his house. He also boasted two godfathers: One was Salvador Dali; the other, Pablo Picasso, encouraged the young Bosé to enroll in a prominent dance academy.
In 1973, after some minor roles in films such as Duccio Tessari's Gli Eroi Milionari, Bosé left Spain to study in London. There he took more dance lessons, this time from Lindsay Kemp, the legendary dancer who famously taught David Bowie and Kate Bush. Taken by the eclectic London music scene of the early Seventies, Bosé decided to put acting aside and focus on becoming a proper pop singer.
"My thing is music," says Bosé, who also had a prominent role as a female impersonator in Pedro Almodóvar's 1991 film High Heels, as well as a role in Dario Argento's 1977 horror classic Suspiria. "Yes, I have acted in many movies, and I have enjoyed the experience, but acting is really not my art.... I don't feel like I belong on the stage; that's why I have no pretensions of being any kind of actor."
The road to pop stardom, however, wasn't easy, and not until 1983, with the release of his album Bandido, did he truly become an international star. The video for the title single, featuring Bosé donning different guises, was visually stunning, and the song — an ultra-catchy, Duran Duran-meets-Menudo dance tune — remains a staple on Latin pop radio today.
It wasn't until 10 years later, though, that he released the album many fans and critics consider his best, Bajo el Signo de Caín. Lush songs such as "Nada Particular" and "Sol Forastero" featured a carefully crafted, hypnotizing mix of world beats made by onetime Enya producer Ross Cullum. Furthermore, the lyrics showcased a different side of the once-happy-go-lucky "Bandido" singer. "Watching the daily news was one of my great muses. For an artist, it's very important to manifest the daily realities through art," Bosé says about the inspiration behind many of his songs on that album.
Through the rest of the Nineties, Bosé enjoyed success with albums including Once Maneras de Ponerse un Sombrero, a record that mixed trip-hop ambient beats with traditional Spanish standards such as "Usted Abuso" and "Mentira/Salome Palmera."
In 1998, he became the host of Spanish TV program El Séptimo de Caballería, which showcased top music artists from around the world. It's where he met Michael Stipe, whom he's stayed in touch with ever since.
Their friendship resulted in the melancholic Papito duet "Lo Que Hay Es Lo Que Ves" ("What You See Is What You Get"), a popular single from Bajo el Signo de Caín. The updated version sounds dreamy and spacey, full of wavering synthesizers, like a long-lost R.E.M. song augmented by Bosé's warm, personal vocals.