Alejandra Guzmán: 1968—: Rock Singer, Songwriter Biography
She's been called the Mexican Madonna and the bad girl of Latin pop. Mexican rock star Alejandra Guzmán indeed gained tabloid notoriety for her flesh-baring displays on stage and for a series of controversial moves and wrong turns in her personal life. Yet another way to regard Guzmán's career would be to identify her as a performer who has broken new ground for women in Latin American music. Guzmán's low, raspy voice is a distinctive instrument widely recognized all through the Spanish-speaking Americas, and she brought a new level of sexual frankness to Mexican popular music. In a world where female performers often act out the ideas of male impresarios, Guzmán has generally controlled the direction of her own career.
Born February 9, 1968, in Mexico City, Alejandra grew up in a hothouse atmosphere where her performing instincts were encouraged, making her first appearance on television at the age of two months and often traveling with her mother's dramatic company. "I was influenced by being born to two big stars," Guzmán told the San Antonio Express-News. Her father, Enrique Guzmán, was a Venezuelan-born performer who was one of the pioneers of rock en español in the 1960s and 1970s, and her mother, Silvia Pinal, was an actress who sang duets with her husband on their television program Silvia y Enrique— something like a Mexican Sonny and Cher. As a teenager she was cast along with her mother in a production of the musical Mame and decided that she wanted to make singing a career. Her parents insisted only that she finish high school.
Guzmán appeared for a few years in Mexican television soap operas while looking for a way to break into the music business. Her musical career took off in 1989 when she convinced Latin producer Miguel Blasco to helm her debut album Bye Mama. From the start Guzmán, who named the Rolling Stones and the throaty-voiced Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday as major influences, made a strong impact. It wasn't long before Mexican fans had proclaimed her "La Reina del Rock" or "The Queen of Rock."
Guzmán's second album Dame tu Amor, featuring classic-rock covers, eclipsed even its predecessor's strong showing and marked the beginning of her sexy stage show, featuring short miniskirts and a set of sensual dance moves that were explicit even by Latin pop standards. She accumulated a set of tattoos in the bikini-line area that male fans shouted for her to display as her concerts unfolded, and her daring image stoked her record sales as the Fonovisa label released roughly one Guzmán album a year. Her best-selling release was her third album, Eternamente Bella, which reportedly hit sales of a million copies within a year of its release. Guzmán's outrageous persona went from image to reality in 1992, however, when she announced that she was pregnant out of wedlock with her daughter Frida Sofía.
That caused major controversy, but Guzmán bounced back undaunted after a short hiatus, releasing a song called "Mala Hierba" as the leadoff single of her RCA-label album Libre and, more controversially still, posing semi-nude in a 1994 issue of Playboy magazine's Mexican edition. Guzmán defended her photo spread to the Houston Chronicle saying, "My intention was to do it with artistry, not something vulgar or horrible…. Also I did not show the expensive things, because for that I would have charged an incredible sum." Regardless of the controversial publicity, Libre, which featured songwriting contributions by Guzmán and reflected her heavy involvement in song selection and production, did well, landing in the top ten of Mexican album sales charts.
Nevertheless, Guzmán's career began to run into trouble as the 1990s wore on. She entered a rehab program for drug addiction, finally swearing off drugs permanently in 1997. Her music deepened as she began to include elements such as Middle Eastern and Indian instruments, and after the release of her 1996 album Cambio de Piel she began to gain fans in the United States beyond the usual circuit of Latin concert venues and compact disc shops. Guzmán married U.S. citizen Farrell Goodman in 1998, but the marriage didn't last—her husband was arrested and convicted on drug trafficking charges in Germany. Tabloid newspapers had a field day as Guzmán protested that she knew nothing of his illicit activities. To make things worse, Guzmán's daughter became the target of an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt.
Guzmán tried to get back to her roots and recharge by appearing on stage with her mother in the musical Gypsy, but her label RCA had become leery of the negative publicity surrounding its troubled rock star and put only desultory efforts into promoting her 1999 album Algo Natural. The company was also undergoing a reorganization at the time, leaving no one in charge of Guzmán's career. The album won critical praise and a Latin Grammy nomination, but it bombed commercially. Though People en Español had named Guzmán one of its "Year's Most Intriguing People" in 1998, she was displaced from her spot at the top of Mexico's gossip columns by singer Gloria Trevi, who was imprisoned in Brazil after being indicted on kidnapping and sexual assault charges.
Guzmán, having reached an age that few rock-star careers survive, could have given up. But she soldiered on, undertaking a U.S. tour and promoting the Algo Natural album on her own. After a time, things began to turn around. Mexican audiences warmed to her account of the Farrell Goodman fiasco, allowing her to make some degree of transition from bad girl to victimized spouse. And Guzmán drew on a large reservoir of fans who still flocked to her live appearances. An appearance at the Centro de Bellas Artes in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in February of 2001 mushroomed into a three-night stand as tickets were snapped up, and Guzmán's energetic performances were the talk of the Latin music industry.
Hiring Puerto Rican entertainment lawyer Alfredo Castellanos as her manager, Guzmán launched a full-scale comeback. Re-signed to RCA/BMG for a lucrative three-album deal, she recruited veteran Cuban-American rock producer Desmond Child for her next album, Soy; Child in turn brought on board guitarist Joe Satriani and songwriters Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from the rock group Aerosmith. Guzmán helped to translate the Tyler-Perry contribution, "Soy tu Lluvia," into Spanish, and she herself co-authored the party anthem "Diablo." The album earned Guzmán a Latin Grammy award in 2002 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, and she gained a newly respectable image as a guest anchor for the Mexican network Televisa, at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Guzmán toured the continental United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico in 2002 and worked on a new album that was tentatively planned to include some English-language lyrics. Her concert schedule in 2003 included a May appearance with her father at Mexico City's National Auditorium. As Guzmán entered her second decade of stardom in the early 2000s, she had outlasted the idea that she had nothing more to offer than raunch or sensationalism.
Bye Mama, Fonovisa, 1989.
Dame tu Amor, Fonovisa, 1989.
Eternamente Bella, Fonovisa, 1990.
Lo Mas Prendido, Fonovisa, 1991.
Libre, RCA, 1993.
Enorme, RCA, 1994.
Al Borde de la Locura, Fonovisa, 1994.
De Piel Negra, Fonovisa, 1996.
Cambio de Piel, RCA, 1996.
La Guzmán (live), 1997.
Algo Natural, RCA, 1999.
Soy, RCA, 2001.
Alejandra Guzmán, Fonovisa, 2002.
Ellas Cantan Así, RCA, 2003.
Boston Globe, December 4, 1998, p. C6.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 18, 2000, p. 22.
Houston Chronicle, November 28, 1993, p. Zest-20; November 25, 2001, p. Zest-7.
Miami New Times, February 21, 2002.
San Antonio Express-News, February 21, 2003, p. H14.
"Alejandra Guzmán," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (May 22, 2003).
"Biografía," Alejandra Guzmán website, www.aleguzman.com (May 22, 2003).
—James M. Manheim
- Rick Guzmán (1957–) Biography - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
- Other Free Encyclopedias