20 January 1918
3 January 2002 (aged 83)
Mexican composer and orchestra leader Juan Garcia Esquivel is well remember today for his space-age bachelor pad music. A true original, his music was quirky, campy and highly-crafted. It was also a product of its time. Though he has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years his recordings sound hopelessly outdated today, a testament to that strange period in American pop culture that bridged the gap between the generic 1950s and the psychedelic 1960s. His exotic orchestral arrangements, combined with ''zu-zu-zu'' and '' boink, boink'' vocal arrangements, gave his music an otherworldly feel that seemed to inhabit a space between dark, social commentary and easy listening numbness.
Born in Tampico, Mexico, Esquivel's family moved to Mexico City when he was ten. A keyboard and electronics prodigy, he became a featured soloist on the radio by the age of 14 and at 18 was conducting his own 22-piece orchestra. By the early 1950s Esquivel had expanded his orchestra to 54 pieces and had become one of the most popular artists in his homeland. His first album was released in Mexico in 1956. In 1957 he released a mono album in the United States. He was then brought to Hollywood in 1958 by RCA Victor producer Herman Diaz, Jr., where he recorded his first stereo album, Other Worlds, Other Sounds, which was nominated for a Grammy.
Esquivel released several albums over the next few years and also worked on various other projects, including an Ames Brothers album, Hello, Amigos, and a Living Strings album, In a Mellow Mood. Two more of his albums were nominated for Grammies in successive years. He also composed soundtracks for the TV programs Markham, The Tall Man, and The Bob Cummings Show.
In 1962 Esquivel recorded Latin-Esque as part of RCA Victor's ''Stereo Action'' series. The orchestra was divided between two different studios to ensure pure stereo separation. He then left RCA and recorded an album with Reprise before taking a studio hiatus. His recording heyday had passed, and he put together a traveling stage show with dramatic lighting, costume changes, and a pared-down combo.
In 1967 Esquivel returned to RCA and recorded with his combo. In 1968 he recorded his last album in the United States, which was released only in Mexico and Puerto Rico. In 1973 he married his long-time business manager and singer, Yvonne DeBourbon. They were divorced in 1978, and he moved back to Mexico. There he composed and recorded themes for a children's TV puppet show called Burbujas, releasing two albums from that project.
In 1993, while visiting his brother in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Esquivel fell as he emerged from a taxi and broke his hip, aggravating an old spinal injury. He was confined to a bed in his brother's house for the rest of his life. His popularity, though, began to rise again in the mid-1990s when modern audiences rediscovered the exotica music of the 1950s. Many of his recordings were re-released and are still currently available. Juan Garcia Esquivel passed away in 2002 after suffering a stroke.
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