Entertainment & Arts

Y Viva Espana singer dies aged 82

Manolo Escobar
Image caption Escobar sang in 2010 when Spain's football team won the World Cup

Singer Manolo Escobar, whose best-selling track Y Viva Espana became part of Spain's cultural identity in the 1970s, has died aged 82.

Escobar died at home in the town of Benidorm surrounded by his family, after a long fight against cancer.

He was "a symbol who lived in the musical landscape of Spaniards for half a century," Spain's culture minister, Jose Ignacio Wert, said in a statement.

"Music is my life," Escobar said this month. "I will never surrender."

"I am happy because I have work and because, moreover, people are still prepared to pay to see me on stage," the singer said in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC.

"I want to return to a few of the places I have been to in my career of more than 50 years and say goodbye for good. I will sing one more time in each one so that I don't go back," he added.

Image caption The singer was married to his wife Anita for 53 years

Born in a small village outside Almeria in October 1931, Escobar had a huge following in Spain in the 1960s and 1970s with hits such as El Porompompero and Mi Carro.

A well-known personality thanks to his television show Canta Manolo Escobar, he also starred in films including The Guerrillas and Father Manolo, in which he played a singing priest.

But it was the success of Y Viva Espana, in 1973, that made him an international star. The track was based on Eviva Espana, the 1971 song written by Belgian duo Leo Rozenstraten and Leo Caerts, and performed, in Dutch, by Samantha.

Escobar's best-selling single, which coincided with a boom in international tourism, sold an estimated six million copies.

In 1974, the track was covered by Swedish singer Sylvia Vrethammar, whose English version reached number four in the UK Singles Chart.

One of Escobar's last big acts was in July 2010 when he sang with the Spanish football team to celebrate their victory in the World Cup in South Africa.

He announced his retirement from music at the end of 2012 after 50 years on the stage.

Last month, he had to cancel the final dates of his farewell tour after falling ill.

He was undergoing treatment, reportedly for colon cancer, at Benidorm's Hospital Clinica, but is understood to have left on Tuesday. He died at home two days later.

Escobar leaves a wife, Anita, and one daughter, Vanessa.