There’s a special place in heaven for people who make good break-up songs, the kind that say exactly how you feel (even the things you’re too embarrassed to admit), and then, somehow, manage to lift you up out of your funk and curse the hell out of your ex and make you feel strong again, like you’re actually going to make it.
La Lupe, also known as “La Yiyiyi” and the Queen of Latin Soul, was one of those blessed souls who, over the course of only a few years, gave the world one break-up anthem after the next, with a voice that has no equal and that will live on for as long as people keep getting their heart broken.
Born in Santiago de Cuba on December 23, 1939, she knew that she wanted to sing from an early age, so she moved to Havana and then New York City, where she performed at bars and cabarets in the 60s and 70s. She stood out thanks to her voice – loud, wild, painful, and powerful -, but she also became known for her personality: over-the-top, brash, and eccentric (Tito Puente called her a “hurricane”). This, in addition to her bold fashion style and beauty looks (she gave you cat eye, bold eyebrows, and big hair), made her become a star in life, and a legend after her untimely death at the age of 52.
She is remembered in Cuba, New York, and all across Latin America for being different and for always being herself, but, sadly, also for all the tragedy that surrounded her. This tragedy, the hardships that she went through, and the heartbreak she experienced, are all part of what makes her music so moving, but it also led to her demise, so it’s hard to hear her voice and not just feel with her, but also feel for her.
Still, just one look at one the few videos we have of her live performances or even one listen to one of her most iconic songs is enough to feel all her energy and power, all these years after her death. She was so big, so great, that she’s almost scary, in the way that all great artists are scary (we don’t know what to do with human beings so extraordinary).
Below are a few of her best break-up songs. Some of them are angry and vindictive, while others are the kind you cry yourself to sleep to, but the last one is the happiest of the bunch (as happy as a break-up song can be, at least), the kind of song you sing when you’re ready to be happy again.
“Qué te pedí”
Qué te pedí que no fuera leal comprensión / que supieras que no hay en la vida / otro amor como mi amor.
What did I ask from you, other than loyal understanding, / other than realizing that in this life / there’s no other love like mine.
Maldito seas / una y mil veces más. / En el fondo del infierno / tu alma se consumirá.
Damn you / once and a thousand times more. / In the depths of hell / your soul will be consumed.
Fue tu mejor actuación / destrozar mi corazón. / Y hoy que me lloras de veras / recuerdo tu simulacro.
It was your best performance / destroying my heart / and now that you cry to me truly / I remember your act
Según tu punto de vista / yo soy la mala / vampiresa en tu novela / la gran tirana.
According to your point of view / I am the villain / The vampiress in your story / The great tyrant.
Sé que guardaste tu carcajada más brutal para reírte de mí / para decirme que por el suelo iba a rodar. / Y mira tú, si no rodaste más que yo. / Mírate hoy / quién eres tú / y quién soy yo.
I know you saved your most brutal cackle to laugh at me / to tell me I would roll on the ground. / But look now, did you not roll more than me./ Look at you now / at who you are / and who I am.
“Si vuelves tú”
Si vuelves tú me tienes que querer / me tienes que llorar / me tienes que adorar.
If you come back, you have to love me / you have to cry for me / you have to adore me.
“Esas lágrimas son pocas”
Esas lágrimas son pocas / no me pueden conmover / tienes que llorarme un río / si me quieres convencer.
Those tears are too little / they can’t move me / you have to cry me a river / if you want to convince me.
“Yo no lloro más”
Yo no lloro más / y si se quiere ir / que se vaya…
I’m not crying anymore / if he wants to go / he can leave…
La Lupe is further proof that the worst heartache can produce the best music, and we thank her for her voice and her magic today and always.
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