Agustín Lara

The Mexican songwriter Agustín Lara enriched the nation’s filmic Golden Age with a large array of songs in myriad styles. Born in Mexico City in 1897, Lara first came into contact with music while living with an aunt following the death of his mother. He played piano in a local bordello before his father had him sent to military school. Back in Mexico City, by 1927 he was a regular player in the city’s cabarets and began working with singer Juan Arvizu the following year. His first recorded composition, “Impossible,” was released in 1928, though Lara’s most prolific decade would prove to be the 1930s. In 1930, he began working on the radio, acted, and composed songs for films. Through the decade, he regularly toured Latin America and South America, where he composed some of his most famous pieces. An ill-fated tour to Cuba in 1933 failed due to the island’s political instability. Throughout Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema from the mid-1930s until the end of the 1940s, Lara’s compositions were frequently featured. The 1941 film Melodies of America presented Lara’s songs in a cinematic response to the American “Good Neighbor policy,” which saw American media companies produce material that dealt with Latin American characters and themes. Latin American films were popular in Spain and, as a result, Lara had a significant following in the country. In 1959 a biopic of Lara was produced and through the early 1960s he successfully toured Europe and further cemented his international star status. Prior to his death from a heart attack in 1970, Lara composed over 700 songs that have been performed by singers across the globe.