ARTIST: José Alfredo Jiménez
Listen to it here:
Ella was written by Jose Alfredo Jiminez in 1942 in the style of vals meijcano. He was 18 years old at the time and sang of a broken heart. It has been covered many times by prominent Latinx musicians.
Jose Alfredo Jiminez Sandoval was born January 19, 1926 in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico. There’s not a lot on Jiminez’s life, but it is known that despite his little to non-existant musical training, Jiminez wrote over 1000 songs, and his compositions have been covered by a myriad of popular Latinx artists. Sadly Jiminez died young, passing at age 47 from cirrhosis of the liver.
Jiminez is considered a Rancheras style composer, an old traditional style that predates the Mexican Revolution.
As he write over 1,000 songs, Jiminez is considered one of the most prolific songwriters in western music (take THAT Franz Schubert!).
When I saw that our next song was a Mexican song I was excited because I love hearing more and more international music beyond “I love Serge Gainsbourg!” and “my boyfriend is Jamaican so I’ve heard a lot of dancehall”. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not how fantastic Jose Alfredo Jiminez’s voice is! He’s like a Mexican Bing Crosby almost. Anyhow, I don’t really know what this song is about – I don’t know Ella, but whoever she is, it sounds like Jiminez cares for her deeply! Lots of emotion and drama in his voice. The band sounds really good too, kinda cheesy, but I’m not going to complain about that part because it fits so well with the song. Although I do like the song, it’s not the Jiminez song that would convince me to spend my hard earned shekels on a Jiminez record. It’s definitely enough to pique my curiosity to listen to more of his songs, but I haven’t committed to buy anything yet.
Well, this opens with the buttery smooth, dark, and warm voice of Jimenez, before he’s gradually joined by the rest of the band. I have to say, I love Mexican music! The trumpets have this weird bright tone, and these great harmonies, and there’s so much energy and bright sounds. This is a mariachi ballad of sorts, which is not something I’m super familiar with, and tiptoes that line between cheesy and tasteful. Jiminez himself has a lovely, dark voice, the guitar and bass seem to work together super well, but for me it would be great to cut out those violins. The trumpets sound great! This song tells of heartbreak, but then there are these little yells, and the cutesy V-I ending that make it seem more uplifting than the lyrics signify. I like this melody as well, that is significantly more complex than the last few songs we’ve listened to, and I love the liberties that all of the musicians are able to take since they’re all communicating so well. This was a fun, but not earth-shattering listen!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
A very dramatic staging by Roberto Alagna:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: