Miguel Rafael Martos Sánchez (born May 5, 1943 in Linares, Spain), often simply referred to as Raphael, is a worldwide acclaimed Spanish singer and television, film and theatre actor. A pioneer of modern Spanish music, he is considered a major influence in having opened the door and paving the way to the flood of Spanish singers that follow. His wide-range voice, added to his quality as showman, has entertained and engaged people worldwide for more than five decades.
Raphael was born Miguel Rafael Martos Sánchez in Linares, province of Jaén (Spain), on May 5, 1943. As a consequence, he is nicknamed both “El Ruiseñor de Linares” (“Nightingale of Linares”) and “El Divo de Linares” (“The Divo from Linares”). His family moved to Madrid when he was nine months old, and he started singing when he was just three years-old. He joined a children’s choir at age four. When he was 9, he was recognized as the best child voice in Europe at a contest in Salzburg, Austria.
Raphael began his professional career by signing with the Dutch record label Philips. To distinguish himself, he adopted the “ph” of the company’s name and christened himself ‘Raphael’. His first singles were “Te voy a contar mi vida” and “A pesar de todo”, among others. Raphael adopted his own peculiar singing style from the beginning; he is known for acting each one of his songs while on stage, emphasizing his gestures with high dramatic effect. It is not unusual for Raphael to ad lib lyrics as to localize a song depending on the venue he’s singing at, wear Latin American peasant costumes and dance folk dances within a song, kicking and demolishing a mirror, or doing the moves of a flamenco dancer or a bullfighter onstage. He also possesses a wide vocal range, which he often used in the beginning of his career as to evoke a choirboy approach to some songs.
When he was nineteen, he won first, second and third awards at the famous Benidorm International Song Festival, Spain, 1962, with the songs: “Llevan”, “Inmensidad” and “Tu Conciencia”. After a brief relation with Barclay record label, who produced just an EP, he signed contract with Hispavox recording company, and began a long artistic relationship with the musical director of this label, the late, talented argentinian orchestrator Waldo de los Ríos and intensify the partnership with outstanding Spanish songwriter Manuel Alejandro.
In 1966 and 1967 he represented Spain at the XII and XIII Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg, singing “Yo soy aquél” and Vienna, “Hablemos del amor” and placing both 7th and 6th position, although he did not win. It was the first time that Spain obtained a high place in the competition,leaving the door open for victory the following year, which Spain achieved with “La, la, la”, another song of modern style too,which for political reasons still in Spain then was sung instead by Massiel. This served as a turning point in Raphael’s career, making him an international star. He traveled and performed worldwide in Europe, Latin America, the United States, Russia and Japan. Songs such as “Yo soy aquel” (his signature song), “Cuando tú no estás”, “Mi gran noche”, “Digan lo que digan”, “Tema de amor”, “Estuve enamorado” and “Desde aquel día” cemented his status as a major international singing star.
Raphael also began a lucrative film career, appearing in, Cuando tú no estás (Mario Camus, 1966), which was followed by Al ponerse el Sol (Mario Camus, 1967) Digan lo que digan (Mario Camus, 1968, filmed in Argentina), El golfo (1969, filmed in México), El ángel (1969), Sin Un Adiós (1970, partially filmed in England) and Volveré a nacer (1972).
As Raphael became a success in Latin America, he made a habit of recording Latin American folk standards including “Huapango torero”, “Sandunga” and “Llorona”; they were hits in Mexico.
He appeared live on The Ed Sullivan Show with great success on October 25, 1970, singing (in Spanish, English and Italian) “Hallelujah” and “Hava Nagila.” He appeared again on December 27, 1970, with the songs “Maybe” (Somos), “When my love is around” (Cuando llega mi amor) and “The sound of the trumpet” (Balada de la trompeta).
In 1975, Raphael began his own successful program on Spanish Television called El Mundo de Raphael, where he sang with international stars. He also had a radio program, where he and his wife spoke with and interviewed outstanding personalities, and he starred in soap operas, starting with the Mexican production Donde termina el camino, shown in the spring of 1978 and later in other countries like Peru and Chile.
Raphael succeeded in the early 1980s with songs such as “¿Qué tal te va sin mí?”, “Como yo te amo”, “En carne viva” and “Estar enamorado”. In 1981, he was awarded the Uranium Disk for sales of over 50 million albums around the world on the Hispavox record label. During 1984 and 1985 he recorded two albums with songs written by José Luis Perales like “Ámame”, “Yo sigo siendo aquel”, “Dile que vuelva”, “Y… Cómo es él” and “Estoy llorando hoy por ti”.
In 1984 a parody of “Yo soy aquél” was used in a radio spot in Puerto Rico’s gubernatorial race. Then-governor Carlos Romero Barceló used the parody (complete with a Raphael sound-alike) namely as a jab against opponent, Raphael’s namesake, (and noted Spanophile), former governor Rafael Hernández Colón. Raphael was surprised by the unauthorized use of the music, but was highly amused by the reference.
In 1987 he left Hispavox and signed a contract with Columbia (now Sony Music), where he again recorded songs written by Roberto Livi like “Toco madera” and “Maravilloso corazón”. In 1991 he had a hit with “Escándalo” in Spain, Latin America, and in Japan, where it reached number one. At the end of the 1990s, after ending a contract with PolyGram, he went back to EMI. In 1998 the artist published the first part of his memoirs titled ¿Y mañana qué?, from his childhood until his marriage in 1972.
Raphael took part in the 2000 Spanish version of the stage musical Jekyll & Hyde for seven months, with great success.