Behind The Song Lyrics: “Macarena” by Los del Río

In the 25 years since it exploded in popularity, topping charts worldwide, “Macarena” by Los del Río (and its Bayside Boys remix) has remained one of the most iconic and beloved one-hit wonders in the history of the record-making business.

Yet, like a lot of great success stories, the rise of the tune and its universally-recognizable dance didn’t happen overnight—in fact, it took a few years to really get off the ground running.

It all started at a party held by the Venezuelan businessman, Gustavo Cisneros, in 1992. Los del Río—a Spanish Latin pop duo comprised of Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruiz Perdigones—had, at the time, made a name for themselves as proprietors of world-class Latin lounge music, which led to them being invited to Cisneros’ shindig as the musical act. There, they couldn’t help but notice the beauty of another performer: flamenco dancer, Diana Patricia Cubillán.

As a result, Monge improvised a chorus on the spot: “Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Magdalena!

Overcome with inspiration, the duo got back to their hotel later that evening and wrote a full set of lyrics—then, in order to avoid any confusion with Emmanuel’s song, “Magdalena,” they opted to change the name to “Macarena,” in honor of Monge’s daughter. Just like that, the “Macarena” was born. Returning to Spain, Los del Río made a loose, fun-loving acoustic version of the song and released it on their 1993 album, ​​A mí me gusta.

But that was 1993—three years before the song would become a huge, international hit. In the intermittent time, RCA Records commissioned some remixes to be made by the Spanish House group, Fangoria, with the idea that the new arrangements could help the song catch on in a club context. That didn’t exactly happen, but one particular version—“Macarena (River Re-Mix)”—did start catching on in underground communities around the world… including Miami.

That’s what brought “Macarena” to the attention of radio DJ, Jammin Johnny Caride. Working at a radio station and a few clubs in the Miami area, folks started requesting to hear the song—reporting that info to his supervisors at the radio station, Power 96, they asked if it would be possible to get an English version of the song made. So, Caride turned to his friends, Mike “In The Night” Triay and Carlos de Yarza, who were working under the name Bayside Boys. They took the “Macarena (River Re-Mix)” version of the song, added some English vocals performed by Carla Vanessa, altered the beat slightly, and put it out into the world as “Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix).” A few months later, that version of the song reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

A smash hit, the success didn’t come without some drama—rightfully, Fangoria was upset they didn’t receive due credit for having created the base that Bayside Boys built their remix from. Describing it as plagiarism, Fangoria took the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, but nothing ultimately came from it.

Nonetheless, Los del Río embraced the wave of international accolade and fanfare, making the now-iconic music video embedded above. The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 60 straight weeks, which was the record for the longest reign of any No. 1 song (until Adele surpassed it with “Rolling In The Deep”). Likewise, the dance craze itself spread across the world, showing up everywhere from clubs to elementary school classrooms to the 1996 Democratic Party Convention, even.

Through it all, the song was selling millions of copies, making Monge and Perdigones wealthy, international stars (even though they only received around 25% of the total revenue). Even today, the song remains hugely popular on platforms like TikTok—seriously, just search “Macarena” on the app and you’ll find countless videos that cumulatively account for millions upon millions of streams, all utilizing the song in different creative ways.

@enola.bedard

Which mood are you today, Jonathan or Dracula? 🤣 #macarena #hoteltransylvania #funny

♬ original sound – enolabedard

All things considered, that’s a pretty amazing turn out for an improvised line inspired by a beautiful dancer at a party—25 years removed from when the song first reached No. 1, it still shows no sign of fading or disappearing from the global lexicon of having fun.

Photo by David Benito/Getty Images

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