“The main thing that has evolved in my career are my lyrics, because I tend to write about...
Juan Luis Guerra
Texto: Celeste Rodas de Juárez
It wasn’t just anyone who compared him to a Beatle: Enrique Iglesias himself dubbed Juan Luis Guerra “the Hispanic Paul McCartney” after they finished recording the song “Cuando me enamoro.” But no flowery compliments or even the fact that he has sold more than 20 million albums and holds the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from Boston’s Berklee College of Music could divert Guerra from the path that he has followed his entire life: being faithful to his beliefs, his family and his music. Winner of two Grammys and nine Latin Grammys, creator of hits like “La bilirrubina” and “Burbujas de amor,” the Dominican singer-songwriter talks to in about how fame doesn’t ruffle his inner peace as he unveils his 11th album, En son de guerra (2010).
Despite your huge success, you’re very close to your roots. How do you manage to keep fame from changing you?
“I am very careful because I know that in life – and not only with regard to fame – there are choices that people think are good but soon discover that they are not. Fame can be positive or negative depending on how you use it. If you use it to fill others’ lives with joy and peace, then it’s good. But if you use fame for something bad, then you are in the wrong. I prefer the former, which is what allows me to be at peace with life.”
You’ve used your fame to call attention to good causes. For example, you recently held a concert for earthquake victims in Haiti. Is there an issue that you try to stay away from?
“The only issue that I don’t like to address is politics, particularly that of other countries. If people ask me about the Dominican Republic, I might answer, but I have a hard time sharing opinions about other countries because I don’t believe I have a right to do so.”
But there’s always social criticism in your songs. On this new album, there are several songs, like “La guagua,” in which you make social and political statements…
“Yes, this album includes songs like “La calle” (with Juanes), which offers social criticism and addresses the lack of integrity and the surreal things that one sees in our countries. If I make a statement in a song, the music presents the problem in a general way. And if the shoe fits… I often compose songs when I see a real need. That’s what happened when I wrote “El Niágara en bicicleta,” which was inspired by a pressing problem with public health services in my country. The song also reflected similar situations in many other countries in Latin America and around the world, so it became an international call for change.”
Can a song change the world?
“The power of song is very great, as long as you really listen to it and take action in response. Human intention is what effects change. A song can’t solve every problem, but it can transform the listener.”
You must have heard lots of stories about how your songs have changed people’s lives. Which touched you the most?
“A lot of people have told me that they felt stronger about facing difficult situations listening to the song “Las avispas.” Once, a woman came up to me in an airport crying and said that a song of mine had saved her marriage. Can you imagine? Something that I composed saved something as sacred as a marriage. That made me so happy. And another thing is that people compare me to Paul McCartney, when in reality, far from believing that I am similar to him, I dream of singing with him someday. That would be a dream come true!” in