What would Spain be like without music? Without the sounds of gorgeous flamenco wafting out of every open window, without sad folk songs to guide people through the complicated history of the country, or without sitting around a carmen every night in Granada with a group of travellers jamming out La Bamba?
Erm, maybe that last example is only specific to my experience in Spain, but honestly… I doubt it.
Heartfelt music is intrinsic to Spanish culture, and if one should go to Spain and somehow avoid being emotionally carried away by a Spanish song would be to not understand, at a very primal level, what makes Spaniards tick.
So whether it is a song directly about Spain, by a Spanish musician, or simply influenced by Spanish culture..
Here are my 15 song picks in my ultimate Spain Playlist:
1. The Clash – Spanish Bombs
The cover photo of this post may have tipped you off (it was taken at Plaza Joe Strummer in Granada), but Joe Strummer of the band The Clash was greatly influenced by his childhood trips to Granada, Spain, as mentioned in this track.
2. George Ezra – Barcelona
The more I listen to UK singer George Ezra (of Budapest fame), the more I dig what he’s all about. This is his ode to the coastal Spanish city of Barcelona.
3. Counting Crows “Holiday In Spain”
Love or hate Counting Crows, they know how to write a song about Spain that is partially performed in… Dutch. Yes, you heard that right, as this song is actually a duet with Dutch pop group Blof and was a #1 hit on the Dutch Top 40 chart in the Netherlands.
4. The Business – Spanish Jails
The Business, an English band formed in London in 1979, spat out this angry little number in 1985.
5. Manu Chao – Rumba de Barcelona
Manu Chao is a France-born singer of Spanish origin who has achieved a considerable amount of success in Europe. His musical stylings were heavily influenced by bands such as The Clash and The Jam.
6. Toundra – Cielo Negro (Black Sky)
Toundra is riffy, full-bodied instrumental rock that will give you the feeling something is looming just out of sight. Born out of Madrid, Toundra has achieved considerable success in Spain.
7. Amparanoia – La vida te da.
Amparanoia (Amparo Sanchez) is a Spanish singer & guitarist who, although born in Granada, found her musical footholds in 1990’s Madrid.
8. La Kinky Beat – Pirata Capitan
La Kinky Beat is a Catalan supergroup of sorts comprised of members from notable bands of the area: Trimelón , Royal Jaleo , Radio Bemba , Afrodisian Band and Radar Bcn. Their music stylings tend to span genres, but Rock & Reggae are two of their main themes.
9. Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza
Could I create this list without slipping a little Mike Posner in here? I can just hear the snobs grumble from the stands as I type this, “That is SO 2016.” If you’re still unsure about Ibiza, however, it’s a Spanish island out in the Mediterranean known for it’s partying.
10. Tom Waits – Black Market Baby
It’s no secret that I’ll look for pretty much any reason to put a Tom Waits track in a playlist, because he’s one of the best songwriters ever in my humble opinion, and this track is no exception. The song mentions that his “black market baby” booked a ticket back to Spain, and… that’s pretty much it for the Spain references.
Whatever, I make the rules here. “She’s a diamond that wants to stay coal.”
11. The Refrescos – Aqui No Hay Playa
Aqi No Hay Playa (There’s No Beach Here) is a catchy pop/ska track that puts all of Madrid’s great attributes against the fact that Madrid is, well, landlocked. Just try not to dance to this.
12. Los Lobos & Gipsy Kings – La Bamba
If my sangria fuelled memory serves me correct, every night during my stay in Granada “La Bamba” would eventually be jammed out on the guitar in the carmen of my hostel.
Although the Gipsy Kings were born in the south of France, they perform in the Spanish language with an Andalusian accent.
13. Juan Martin – Evocation
Juan Martin is one of the key modern-day Spanish guitarists, born in Andalusia. However, not only does he slay at the Flamenco, he has written many books on nailing the technique.
14. Frank Sinatra – Granada
Okay, so this is technically a cover of a song written in 1932 by Mexican composer Agustin Lara. Written about the Spanish city, it has become a many-times-covered Spanish classic.
15. Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe – Barcelona
Released in 1987, “Barcelona” became one of the biggest hits of the late Queen vocalist’s solo career. Fusing Mercury’s legendary vocal stylings with Montserrat Caballe’s operatic soprano, this track hits all the right notes in all the right places.
Actually, the whole album. Listen to the whole album.
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Definitely Spanish Caravan by the Doors! Words and melody are spot on! Once you get to know a little about Spanish history it really draws you in! I’m having a blast visiting Andalusia!
Ah good call on that one! Jim Morrison fan over here to the core. Glad to hear you’re loving Andalusia!
You missed quite possibly the most famous one in the sense it’s been covered by more artists than the others ( although it’s about a dancehall called the Spanish Castle in America:
Spanish Castle Magic by Jimi Hendrix
Ahhh good addition! I’m going to throw this album on tonight.