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10 Musical Compositions Inspired by Gabriel García Márquez: Radiohead, Shakira and more



Gabriel García Márquez died yesterday (April 17, 2014) from lymphatic cancer at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

In 1982, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature and was celebrated for his fictional works rooted in mythical Latin American landscapes. He is one of the masters of magic realism and was arguably the most popular Spanish-language writer since Cervantes.

Born in Colombia but residing in Mexico for more than 30 years, he is best known for his 1967 masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude and 1985's Love in the Time of Cholera, among other novels and short stories.

However, his influence is not confined to literature alone. The worlds and characters he created have also spawned musical works.

In a testament to his legacy, here are 10 songs that were inspired by García Márquez's life and works.

1. "Banana Company" by Radiohead

"Banana Company" was originally an acoustic track from a radio session Thom Yorke did in 1993. It ended up as the B-side to the single "Pop is Dead" and on the EP Itch. Select magazine's October 1999 issue, which was partially devoted to tracing the origin of Radiohead songs, cited One Hundred Years of Solitude as a possible inspiration for the song. The lyrics are about a little town in which a big factory is built and how industrialization turned farmers into factory workers.

2. "Hay Amores" by Shakira

Fellow Columbians, Shakira and García Márquez were mutual admirers. When the soundtrack for the film adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera was being made, he asked her to contribute some songs. She ended up contributing three songs for the film, but "Hay Amores" is the most exemplary piece.

3. "Despues de los despueses" by Sabina and Serrat

Spanish artists Joaquin Sabina and Joan Manuel Serrat dedicated "Despues de los despueses" to García Márquez (a.k.a. Gabo). The song includes lyrics about his literature: "Bendito infierno / La passion según el Gabo / oxida y envejece / cobra vida en invierno / Y amanece con cuernos y sin rabo." This roughly translates to "Blessed hell / According to Gabo, passion rusts and ages / It comes to life in the winter and it dawns with horn and without tail." The two artists also visited García Márquez on his 85th birthday.

4. “Macondo” by Oscar Chavez

Mexican singer Oscar Chavez based this song on the fictional city, Macondo, from García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The song was composed as a tribute to García Márquez with the lyrics speaking about “los cien años de Macondo.” The song became a tropical hit and is now heavily covered by mariachis.

5. Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catán

Daniel Catán turned to the works of García Márquez for inspiration writing his second opera. He drew upon a few themes from García Márquez's works in general with an emphasis on Love in the Time of Cholera.

The opera explores magic realism and themes of love, redemption and transfiguration. The story follows Florencia Grimaldi, an aging opera singer who embarks on a steamboat journey down the Amazon River. Along the way, she encounters pink rain, foul waters and the threat of the cholera epidemic as well as various personal revelations. Finally, her spirit is transformed into an emerald butterfly. Florencia en el Amazonas premiered in Houston on October 25, 1996 to wide acclaim.

6. “San Petersburgo” by Silvio Rodriguez
According to Rodriguez, he and García Márquez once took a plane on which they were the only two passengers. During the flight, García Márquez told him the story of an abandoned bride. Rodriguez retells the story in “San Petersburgo.”

7. Love and Other Demons by Peter Eötvös
Love and Other Demons is an opera in two acts with a libretto by the Hungarian author Kornél Hamvai. It is based on García Márquez’s novel Of Love and Other Demons. The plot follows the story of Maria, who is bitten by a rabid dog and must be exorcised from her demons.

8.Terra e Libertà by Modena City Ramblers

Modena City Ramblers based most of its 1997 album Terra e Libertà (Italian for Land and Freedom) on García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, including the lead track "Macondo Express," "Il ballo di Aureliano," "Remedios la bella" and "Cent'anni di solitudine." Love in the Time of Cholera, however, inspired the song "L'amore ai tempi del caos."

9. “I Will Hold On” by Moxy Früvous
The singer and songwriter for Toronto’s Moxy Früvous, Jian Ghomeshi, wrote the song “I Will Hold On” after reading García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. The song appears on their 1999 album Thornhill. In an interview published in Toronto’s NOW, he mentioned the book as a work that changed his life. “[Love in the Time of Cholera] provides me with my empirical blueprint for the notion of true love,” he told them.

10. “Remedios the Beauty” by The Bill Frisell Band
“Remedios de Beauty” is a composition that appears on the Baltimore guitarist's 1988 record Lookout for Hope. The name comes from a character in García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, named Remedios the Beauty, who is so beautiful that she ascends straight into Heaven.

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