by Marty Demarest

For parents of young musicians, worrying is often a second-nature activity. Even though music seems to be a relatively harmless pursuit -- urbane even -- compared to other interests such as full-contact athletics and construction work, the dangers it carries as a career choice can be the foundation of numerous parental nightmares. Will my child make enough money to eat? Are they doing anything measurably useful for anyone else? And what guarantee is there that anyone will ever relate to their artistic aspirations?

Julio Iglesias' parents likely felt these same fears, which is why they urged him to study law, with an eye toward their son becoming a career diplomat. Julio himself, pursuing more active dreams, aspired to be a professional soccer player. However, a near-fatal car accident shortly after becoming the goalkeeper for the Real Madrid soccer team put an end to both of Julio's career paths when, during his recuperation in the hospital, he began to write poems and play the guitar as a way to pass the time. It wasn't long before he was combining them into romantic songs.

Thirty-three years later, with more than 250 million records sold worldwide, his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and more than 2,650 platinum and gold records, Julio Iglesias has eclipsed both his parents' hopes for security and success and his own more passionate ambitions. Indeed, if there is a model for conquering the world with a specific national flair, Iglesias' career is an ideal place to start.

While western culture has been captivated on a widely popular level with exotic Latin artists since Rudolph Valentino ruled from the silver screen, the success Iglesias has achieved worldwide is arguably unprecedented. Well before Ricky Martin, Selena and the Latin Grammys hit mainstream media-driven fame, Iglesias was doing the work himself, touring in almost every country, packing concert halls and filling airwaves with his music. Even though James Brown is known as the "hardest working man in show business," Iglesias has performed nearly 5,000 concerts on five different continents. This Friday night, he'll be in Spokane for the first time, performing his concert "An Evening with Julio Iglesias" at the Star Theatre in the Spokane Arena.

The signs of Iglesias' success seem to be as numerous as his recordings. There is a life-sized statue of him in the Grevin Museum in Paris. Six of his albums have topped the American music charts simultaneously, a feat matched only by the Beatles and Elvis Presley. He has his own day in Miami (September 8) and was named "Honorary International Professor of Music" by the New World School of the Arts. His titles range from the enigmatic, such as "Universal Spaniard" and "Brightest Hope Male Vocalist," bestowed by Japan's National Hit Research Committee, to the prestigious "Special Representative in the Performing Arts" from UNICEF. And the listing of awards that Iglesias has received is an almost comprehensive catalogue of music awards throughout the world for which he qualifies. His name has become a household word, changing over the years from passionate Latin crooner to kitschy lounge singer, settling more recently on Iglesias' well-earned (and self-regarded) position as el padre of the current crop of worldwide Latino recording stars.

Despite the fact that fame and attention will often

generate more of the same, undoubtedly it's his music

that has given Iglesias the worldwide audience that he commands today and that has elevated him above a simplistic reduction to an exotic romantic performer. In the United States, perhaps Iglesias' most widely recognized song is his duet with Willie Nelson of "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." And he has recorded with Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Placido Domingo and Frank Sinatra. But from his first single "La Vida Sigue Igual" to his album La Carretera, which features songs in French, Spanish, Portugese and Italian, his songs have been as varied as the countries in which they have topped the charts. He's even taken the American Cole Porter standard "Begin the Beguine," recorded it in Spanish, and made it a No. 1 hit in England.

But currently, Julio Iglesias may be more popular for being Julio Iglesias than he is for his music. While William Shatner will never be able to divorce his persona from Captain Kirk, Madonna will always be the Material Girl, and George Hamilton is rotisserie-tan now and forever, Iglesias doesn't even need to be known for anything unique about himself to be recognized. He has entered the world's cultural mythology, representing the romantic Latin performing artist in much the same way that the Eiffel Tower signifies the city of Paris rather than its own identity as a successful radio tower.

It's perhaps this identification that has drawn some of today's most popular Latin singers and songwriters to collaborate with Iglesias on his most recent album, Noche de Cuatro Lunas. Joining Iglesias were singer/songwriter Ruben Blades, Ricky Martin's composer, Robi Rosa, and Alejandro Sanz.

Lifting the sound of his music out of its more familiar realm, they have given Iglesias a new approach to his art, as he explains in an interview conducted for Billboard Magazine in 2000 and reproduced on his Web site. "All I know is that they were enthused," he notes about his collaborators. "I didn't ask them, 'Hey, are you happy working with me?' But surely they are happy because they have forced me to sing things that are in the outer reaches. Everyone knows how to drive. But it is harder to drive when there is no signpost to tell you that there is a 180-degree curve up ahead."

Nevertheless, Iglesias admits that the relationship was interesting for the other artists as well. "These young people have been open to singing with their father," he observes. "There are young people who don't want to know anything about their fathers. There are young people who are interested in everything about their fathers. And these chiquillos are interested in knowing their father."

Julio Iglesias performs at the Star Theatre in the Spokane Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, at 8 pm. Tickets: $25-$65. Call: 325-SEAT.

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