La Copla Española: Miguel de Molina

Miguel Frías de Molina was born in Málaga on 10th April, 1908. He was raised by six women: his mother, his sister and four aunts and as a child attended a church school.
As a teenager he moved to Algeciras and took up his first job as a cleaner in a brothel. It was here, when one of the prostitutes tried to seduce him, that he understood and accepted his homosexuality. Something that, sadly and scandalously, was to cost him dearly in later life.
At the age of twenty he worked as tour guide, accompanying groups of tourists to shows at the Tablaos in the region. But he knew he had a special talent: a voice and artistic temperament perfectly suited to Copla Española. He became a mainstay of the genre and was its first truly great male voice.

In 1931 he decided to sing professionally and triumphed in Madrid, although it was Valencia where he enjoyed most success with songs such as El Día Que Nací Yo, Triniá, Te Lo Juro Yo, La Bien Pagá and Ojos Verdes.
These songs were later sung by other artists but it is important to remember who first sang them and made them popular.

Te Lo Juro Yo

He was the first to sing Ojos Verdes, one of the most famous Coplas of all time, at the Café de Oriente en Barcelona; the song later became a standard in Concha Piquer’s repertoire. We have seen this song in an earlier post. Here is another of Miguel de Molina’s biggest early hits.


He performed for the Republican Troops, but with the arrival of the dictatorship his fortunes changed. He was offered shows by one promoter who suggested he take a ninety percent pay cut or run the risk of being reported to the authorities for his republican past. He had no choice but to accept, although that didn’t stop him being seized and tortured after a show. He was beaten to within an inch of his life by three of the new regime’s goons. He was accused of having helped the Republican Army and of being homosexual and told that if he didn’t leave the country he would not be so lucky next time around.

Zorongo Gitano

In 1942 he went into exile in Buenos Aires where he took part in films such as Luces de Candilejas and Ésta Es Mi Vida. One day an order from the Spanish Embassy, again making mention of his homosexuality, was issued and he was forced to move to Mexico. Years later, he was personally invited back by Eva Perón and was able to accept a number of contracts to perform in Argentina.

La Hija de Don Juan Alba

Maldito Sea El Dinero

En 1960, at the age of 52, he decided to stop performing and took up temporary residence in New York.
One of his best known songs, that has been covered by innumerable artists, was La Bien Pagá: a story of deception and betrayal. A true classic of the genre.

La Bien Pagá

He was an honest and forthright person: a disciplined and efficient professional and took personal charge of the marketing and advertising for all his shows. He was a flamboyant dresser and a lot of his stage costumes are preserved in The Fundación Miguel de Molina, run and curated by his great nephew in Madrid.
During his exile he was reluctant to give interviews to the Spanish media.
In 1993 he was awarded the Orden de Isabel La Católica by Felipe González’s government in recognition of his contribution to Spanish Arts.
He died in Buenos Aires, where he is buried, at the age of 84.

In 1989 the director Jaime Chávarri released the film Las Cosas del Querer in his memory. Starring Manuel Bandera and Ángela Molina it is loosely based on Miguel de Molina’s life and features performances of some of his best known songs. Here are a couple of clips.

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