Shaila Dúrcal pays tribute to her iconic mother
The singer will offer a tribute to her mother, Rocio Dúrcal, at the Celebrity Theatre on Aug. 5, 2017.
In Latin-music circles, Rocío Dúrcal is an icon: A catlike diva from Spain whose passionate embrace of Mexican music made her a beloved figure among Hispanic audiences. Her recording of Juan Gabriel’s “Amor Eterno” is an undisputed classic.
Shaila Dúrcal carries on in the tradition of her mother, who died at age 61 in 2006. She has recorded several of her mom’s hits through the years, and is touring the States with a show dubbed “Homenaje a Mi Madre,” or “A Tribute to My Mother.” It’s a difficult juggling act: She wants to ensure that her mom’s legacy lives on, but she also wants to carve out her own identity.
“It’s challenging sometimes,” says Dúrcal, calling from her home in Houston. “When she passed away, her fans had a kind of emptiness. They needed her. And I get it: I’m kind of like her physically. I kind of sound like her. They were seeing me as if I was her. I’m proud and happy to continue her legacy, but I want to teach them I’m a different person.”
Indeed, Dúrcal bares an uncanny resemblance to her mother, both physically and in the dusky timbre of her voice. It’s perfectly natural, especially considering how Dúrcal was raised.
A show-biz upbringing
“I knew I wanted to be a singer by the age of 4,” Dúrcal says. “I spent my afternoons in the recording studio with my mom and I always imagined I was going to be a singer.”
Some children of celebrities take the experience for granted. Not Dúrcal, 37, who adored her mother's glamour and grace.
“I noticed everything about my mom,” she says. “I loved watching how she dressed and how she put on her gowns. I loved seeing how she did her makeup. I would always stare at her, and I learned. It was just an amazing childhood.”
Dúrcal gets it from both sides. Her father, known as Junior, was a Filipino singer who gained fame in the ‘60s as an early rock-and-roller in Spain. He stopped performing in the late ‘70s to raise Dúrcal and her two siblings and to manage his wife’s career. He died three years ago.
“I have so much of my father in me,” Dúrcal says. “My height is from my dad, because my mom was tiny. And my voice reminds me of my dad. It has a certain sweetness and a more mellow tone than my mom. She was more passionate and strong-voiced. I got the sweetness from Dad.”
And, she giggles, her English. Her mom never had a good grasp of the language: “She tried to fake it,” she says.
Life in music
Dúrcal has lived a very international life. She was born and raised in Madrid. She lived in Mexico City, Los Angeles and Miami before settling in Houston with her husband, musician Dorio Ferreira. “Basically, I live on airplanes,” she jokes.
She toured with her mother as a backing singer, and signed her first record deal in 2001. Like her mom, she records both pop material and full-throated Mexican weepers. Her most recent album, 2015’s “Shaila Dúrcal,” is particularly adventurous, adding elements of American country music and urban flavors against mariachi horns.
“I love to play around with music,” she says. “I always have that Mexican side and that pop side. I love (pop) ballads, and that always comes with me. But I try to create fusions of stuff. I added a little country to the last album, and then I have that little flamenco signature in my voice, so it’s this unusual combination."
Her love of mariachi comes from her mother, who is credited with increasing the genre's popularity in Spain. Her mom's 1977 mariachi album "Canta a Juan Gabriel" was ahead of its time and basically reshaped her career. She eventually earned the tag "La Española Más Mexicana," or "The Most Mexican Spaniard."
"My mother was the pioneer," Dúrcal says. "After her, a lot of artists in Spain wanted to work with mariachis, singers like Bertin Osborne. Spanish people really do appreciate Mexican music. That mix of violins and horns is amazing, and it just has that passion."
That passion is there in "Amor Eterno," her mom's signature tune. It's about the loneliness and misery the narrator feels after the death of a loved one. It's emotionally raw; Juan Gabriel wrote it after his mother died. The song emerged as a standard and frequently is played graveside at funerals. Get the hankies ready: In concert, Dúrcal sings it along with a recording of her mother.
"It's a very emotional moment," she says. "It's really the best part of the show, the 'mega' part of the show. Everybody embraces that song, and they relate to it in their own way: It can be about a marriage partner or a family member, but everybody knows grief at some point."
She tries to keep her feelings in check during the song.
"It's a very fine line between crying and getting the most emotion from the song," she says. "Sometimes it is hard, and the audience cries with me. It's a very honest moment."
Still, it is show business, she says with a conspiratorial giggle.
"Even my mom used to laugh sometimes: 'I have to sing this one again?' But when you're on stage, you try to dive into people's emotions and give them the very best. You know what it means to them at that moment."
It's just one of the many lessons she learned from her mom.
"I’m where I’m at because of her," she says. "She gave me life. She taught me everything: How to be a strong woman, how to be an artist, how to make music and how to be creative and take chances.
"She is with me, always."
Shaila Dúrcal with La Mafia
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5.
Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix.
Details: 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com.
Note: Cracker Barrel Country Store will hold a job fair in the theater's club level beginning at 6 p.m.
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