Everyone Started Doing the Macarena
If pop songs, like hurricanes, were rated on an objective scale according to their ability to devastate the pop-cultural landscape, then the song that reached the top of the American pop charts on this day in 1996 was a Category 5 monster. It first made landfall in Florida as a seemingly harmless Spanish-language rumba, but in the hands of a pair of Miami record producers, it soon morphed and strengthened into something called “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” a song that laid waste to all competition during a record-setting run at #1 that began on August 3, 1996.
The group that gets credit for the song that spent more time on the Billboard Hot 100 (60 weeks) than any other in history was Los Del Rio, but their smash-hit record received some critical assistance on its way to the top of the charts. Los Del Rio was the name under which two middle-aged Spaniards named Antonia Romero and Rafael Ruiz had been performing together since 1962. In 1992, while attending a private party of political and cultural heavyweights in Caracas, Venezuala, Romero was inspired to ad lib a spoken verse in honor of a flamenco dancer named Diana Patricia following a spectacular live performance. Addressing her by the name “Magdalena”—a reference to Mary Magdalene that connotes sultriness—Romero said “”Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Ma’dalena, que tu cuerpo e’ pa’ darle alegría y cosa’ buena.” When they later recorded a song based on this line, Los Del Rio changed the name Magdalena to “Macarena,” the name of a neighborhood in their native Seville, but the chorus otherwise remained unchanged: “Give joy to your body, Macarena, for your body is for giving joy and good things.”
The original Los Del Rio recording of “Macarena” was a hit in Latin America and gained some measure of popularity in pockets of North America, but when a DJ named Jammin’ John Caride at Miami’s Power 96-FM asked to add the song to his rotation, station managers told him that their policy was not to play songs sung exclusively in Spanish. Enter producers Carols De Yarza and Mike Triay, who wrote and recorded English-language verses for the female voice of Macarena and remixed the tune to make it more dance club-friendly. Within days, their version of the single, now called “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” was a local smash.
Thirty-three weeks later, helped along by New York radio station WKTU as well as by a popular music video and a dance so easy that anyone could do it, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” reached the #1 spot on the Billboard pop chart on August 3, 1996.