Miguel Ríos is a best-selling, internationally renowned Spanish singer, songwriter, and actor whose career is intrinsic to the establishment of rock & roll as a serious art form in Spain. It has been written that without rock & roll it is impossible to understand Spain's contemporary history, and without Rios, it is impossible to understand rock, so proclaimed King Juan I in 1993. Rios began his recording career in 1963 with the single "El Rey del Twist," but spent most of the decade acting in films and television. He didn't release his debut album until 1969's Mira Hacia Ti; the following year, his single "Himno a La Alegría" (adapted from the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) was also released in an Anglo version as "A Song of Joy" and hit number 14 on American charts, sold over three million copies, introduced the concept of "symphonic rock" to Spain, and established him as a permanent fixture on the country's pop scene. Jailed for hashish possession in 1972, he emerged from the ordeal unscathed in the court of public opinion, but his three prog rock follow-up albums confused his fan base at the time. Since then, these recordings, Memorias de un Ser Humano 1974, La Huerta Atómica 1976, and Al-Andalus 1977 are regarded as classics. Upon his return to rock in 1980 with Rocanrol Bumerang, he consistently landed on the charts through the '90s. In 1982 he released the double-live Rock & Rios, which has been one of the true standard bearers for concert albums well into the new century. Though he takes his time when it comes to recordings, Rios has always been active as a touring musician and songwriter. His 1999 collaborative live offering with Ana Belen and Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Cantan a Kurt Weill, was an unexpected hit, while 2008's Bye Bye Rios, his so-called "retirement" offering, was actually the beginning of a career renaissance.
Rios was born in June 1944. As a student, he grew closer to his passion by singing with his school's chorus and listening to the radio every time twist songs were on the air. By working at a music store, Ríos had the opportunity to meet people related to the local music scene who gave him a chance to start singing in front of an audience, starting as a backup singer. After recording a demo, he decided to send it to a major label in Madrid. The waiting ended in 1961 when the artist was contacted by Philips. That same year, Ríos moved from Granada to the Spanish capital city, recording an EP called El Twist in 1962 as Mike Rios. Two years and six EPs later, Ríos was starring in his first movie, Dos Chicas Locas, Locas. In 1965, the singer left Philips, and after temporarily working with Sonoplay, signed up to Hispavox, releasing the smash hit single "Rio," and later his first full-length, Mira Hacia Ti. In May 1970, a second album came out which included "Himno a la Alegria," based on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; it became Ríos' first song to reach the Billboard charts. After leaving Hispavox in the mid-'70s, Ríos self-produced an album released by Polygram in 1977. By that time, the artist was getting world-wide recognition. In 1982, Ríos consolidated his career with the live double-album Rock & Ríos, recorded in Madrid. The recording was considered among the most important works of modern Spanish rock by music critics and fans. Rock & Ríos sold over 450,000 copies in less than a year. 1984's La Encrucijada became one of his best-known recordings and has been reissued several times. The following year, Rios brought his brand of symphonic rock across the Atlantic; he became the first rock & roll performer to play — and fill — the giant bull-fighting ring Plaza de Toros, in México. He issued one more recording that decade before delivering the hit album Directo al Corazón in 1991. While his recording was less frequent in the last decade of the 20th century, his touring profile remained high. In 1996 he participated in a popular tour with Ana Belén, Víctor Manuel, and Joan Manuel Serrat. In 2003, La Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias de la Música presented Ríos with its highest prize, the Premio de Honor, a lifetime achievement award. The following year, he hit the charts again with 60Mp3. Produced by John Parsons, a Welsh musician based in Spain who was part of Ríos' support band, it was recorded in the singer's home studio in Granada. The set featured guest appearances from poet Luis García Montero and Sevillian guitarist Raimundo Amador. While compilations continued to appear regularly, Rios managed to issue the studio recording Solo o en Compañía de Otros in 2008, and two years later, Bye Bye Rios: Rock Hasta el Final, supposedly his final album, hit the Spanish rock charts. In 2018, Rama Lama issued the third volume in its Rios career overview series, the compilation Vol. 3: Historia de Una Busqueda [1974-1977]. ~ Drago Bonacich