LUMPENPROLETARIAT—David Záizar (1930-1982) is a musical legend, alongside his duet-singing brother, Juan Zaizar (1933-1991). The Brothers Záizar, or Los Hermanos Záizar, are known, at least around the Michoacán diaspora in California, for composing and interpreting classic songs, such as “Cruz de Olvido”, “Mi Terruño”, “Cielo Rojo”, “Mi Unico Camino”, “Mi Destino Fue Quererte”, “Paloma Negra”, and many more.
One commentator has remarked about the music of David Záizar: “His songs are considered an integral part of the Mexican musical heritage and are comparable, for instance, to Woody Guthrie‘s (1912-1967) influence on American folk music.” Less accolade and historical knowledge seems to register in the English-speaking world regarding Juan Záizar’s life and times, despite his being the primary composer of the duo. The Záizar brothers performed as a duet since their teenage years. They also went on to pursue solo careers, after achieving great success as a duo. Contemporaries of legends of Mexican song, such as Pedro Infante (1917-1957), los hermanos Záizar achieved great fame in their own right throughout Mexico and, apparently, in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, particularly Latin America.
David Záizar was known as the ‘king of the falsetto’, in his time. Miguel Aceves Mejía (1915-2006) seemed to have been displaced as rey del falsete by David Záizar. Aficionados of both giants of Mexican song formed rival camps and created some controversy over who was the true ‘king of the falsetto’. David Záizar’s interpretation of “La Malagueña” (1960) is one example of some falsetto vocal stylings, perhaps reminiscent of German yodeling:
“La Malagueña” (1960)
With the advent of Pandora and such, we can get a good listen to the Miguel Aceves Mejia back-catalogue. He’s a good singer. But there’s no question who is the superior vocalist. David Záizar manages to reach operatic levels of vocal ability, power, and subtlety, something for which few popular singers are known. But David Záizar easily ranks in that category, alongside the operatic legends of Mexican song, Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete (1911-1953). Sometimes vocal power was best conveyed in the softest crooning. Consider the huapango “Cucurrucucú paloma“.
Pedro Infante, like the brothers Záizar, sang standards, such as el vals ranchero “Paloma Negra“, composed by Tomás Méndez (1926-1995) and made famous as a signature song of Lola Beltrán (1932-1996). Memorably, the Academy Award-winning and Golden Globe-winning film Frida (2002), starring Salma Hayek (b. 1966), featured a particularly intense interpretation of the standard “Paloma Negra” by Chavela Vargas (1919-2012).
Of the brothers Záizar, it’s pretty safe to say David Záizar has always been like the John Lennon to Juan’s Paul McCartney, the slightly less popular one. C’est la vie. But what’s often forgotten is that that’s, probably, only because Juan Záizar (some three yours younger than his sibling, David) seems to have let his older brother take the lead in their duo. Juan Záizar was an accomplished singer in his own right. But his legacy seems most firmly rooted in his songwriting contributions. Juan Záizar is understood to have been the primary composer of the duo.
The songs made famous as part of the canon of los hermanos Záizar continue to be covered by many contemporary musicians, such as Los Invasores de Nuevo León, who covered, for example, “Mi Destino Fue Quererte“.
Another song, of many, which still lives on today in the canon of Mexican standards, “No Volvere” is always a monster hit at weddings, birthdays, baptisms, quinceañeras, or other random parties. Good times. (Although, the new mafioso tough attitude nowadays among modern Mexican banda hipsters, which is enthralled with Mexican cartel culture, is unfortunate because it laces people’s interpretations of such classic songs with a lamentable belligerence.) Everybody from Alicia Villareal (b. 1971) to Alejandro Fernández (b. 1971) have belted that one out, not to mention countless spirited friends and relations at sundry functions. That song is seared into your (author’s) brain from many a saucy traditional Mexican soirees hosting convergences of multiple extended families.
[last updated 21:18 CDT 14 APR 2015]