Susana Estrada-Spain’s First Lady Of Music.

Ever since 1939, the brutal Francoist regime had ruled Spain with an iron fist. This came to an end with the death of dictator Francisco Franco on ’20th’ November 1975. After Franco’s death, control of Spain passed to King Juan Carlos. By then, Spain was in a state of paralysis, and  had been, during the last few months of Franco’s reign. The Spanish people hoped that things were about to change.

They hoped that after the death of Franco, that Spain’s transition to a liberal democratic state could begin. The transition began  on  ’20th’ November 1975 with the passing of Franco, and took nearly seven years until the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE party on the ‘28th’ October 1982. That seven-year period  is nowadays remembered in Spain as the ‘transition’, and marked a new beginning for the Spanish people. 

The  transition to democracy saw a liberalisation of values and social mores. Suddenly, the Spanish people were enjoying their newfound  freedom. This was something that hadn’t previously existed under the Francoist regime. Life, the Spanish people were realising, was for living and this coincided with a sexual revolution that began during the transition.

During the transition and sexual revolution, singer, model and actress and Susana Estrada represented the new Spain. She was independent and modern women, who lived her life on her terms.  Susana Estrada wanted to bring about change, and was an advocate for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom.  One of the ways she sought to bring about change was through her music, and Susana Estrada was at the vanguard of change that took place during the transition in Spain.

Susana Estrada was born in the city of Gijón, in 1949. By then, Franco had ruled Spain since 1936. Growing up, Susana Estrada she watched as the Francoist regime crushed their opponents mercilessly. Many of Franco’s opponents were imprisoned,  others disappeared in mysterious circumstances and  some were murdered. For anyone who grew up in Spain the forties and fifties, life was tough. It certainly was for Susana Estrada.

By the time she was twenty-one, Susana Estrada had been married, had two children and was now divorced. She was left to bring up two children on her own. This she managed to do on the salary she received working as a librarian. However, Susana Estrada had dreams beyond working in a library. What she really wanted to do, was work as a fashion model.

Eventually, Susana Estrada left her job as a librarian, to embark upon a career as a fashion model. Initially, she worked for small, local companies, but within a year  had been accepted into Madrid’s official model school. It looked like Susana Estrada’s dream was about to come true. However, it turned out that Susana Estrada wasn’t tall enough. Even when she took to wearing fifteen centimetre heels, she wasn’t tall enough. For Susana Estrada, it looked as if her career as a model was over before it began.

It looked unlikely that Susana Estrada would ever model for magazines like Vogue or luxury clothing brands, she found her own niche within the fashion world. Susana Estrada modelled the ready-made, pret-à-porter fashion lines.  Sometimes, though, she was recruited by overseas model agencies, and occasionally found herself featuring on album cover. By 1971, Susana Estrada had gone up in the world.

She made her acting debut in El Zorro de Monterrey in 1971, which was the start of Susana Estrada’s acting career. During the second half of the seventies, Susana Estrada began to feature in a new genre of film, Destape which were erotic comedies. However, before long, Susana Estrada realised that to make a career in the movie industry: “you had to pay a high price and do some things I didn’t want to do.” However, by then, Susana Estrada had embarked on a new chapter in her career.

This began in 1976, when she started acting in erotic musicals. Her debut came in 1976, in Historias del Strip-Tease which was roundly panned by critics. Despite the terrible reviews, it was a huge commercial success and turned Susana Estrada into a star. However, this came at a cost: “in the beginning, women hated me. They thought that I was lacking decorum, that I was shameless, lecherous, rude…Not all of them but the vast majority. People were not ready for this.”

After featuring in several erotic musicals, Susana Estrada became a sex counsellor in the magazine Play-Lady. At one point, she was receiving 7,000 letters a week. By then, Susana Estrada’s new role was attracting the attention of Franco’s regime. She was accused of public scandal, fined, had her passport cancelled and banned from voting for ten years. This was just the latest controversy for Susana Estrada, who was skating on thin ice. Any further controversy could see her receive further sanctions from the Franco regime. Most people would’ve kept a low profile.

Susana Estrada wasn’t most people, and was about to embark on a career as a singer. Her debut single Ya Me Voy De Tu Vida was  released on Odeon in 1978. It was written by Alejandro Jaén, who co-produced the single with Marion Bronley. They were responsible for a single that had been heavily influenced by both classic disco, and the Munich Sound, which was pioneered by Giorgio Moroder. The release of Ya Me Voy De Tu Vida marked the start of a new chapter in Susana Estrada’s career. Despite this, she continued her career in musicals.

Between 1978 and 1980, the musicals that Susana Estrada appeared in grew in popularity. However, they became increasingly explicit. By then, Spain was undergoing a period of transition, and Susana Estrada was campaigning for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom. Still, though, some women didn’t approve of what she was doing, and felt it was demeaning. However, Susana Estrada remembers: “I fought very hard for women’s rights. I knew that through sexual liberation you obtain total freedom. This was something which men knew at first and women discovered it late.” Susana Estrada was determined to bring about change, and didn’t seem to care if she caused controversy. Her sophomore single would certainly prove controversial.

Two years after releasing her debut single, Susana Estrada returned in 1980 with her sophomore single Acaríciame, which was released on the Barcelona based Belter label. Acaríciame was written by Carlos Moncada, Félix Lapardi and Óscar Rubio, with Josep Llobell Oliver taking charge of the production. They played their part in the success of Acaríciame, which resulted in Susana Estrada recording and releasing her debut album, Machos.

Susana Estrada entered the studio in 1980, and recorded eight tracks which featured in Machos, which was the musical that she was appearing in. This included the robotic funk of Espacial and the space cosmic disco of Hagamos El Amor which were both written by the songwriting partnership of C. De Las Eras and Manuel Gas. When the album was recorded, Belter scheduled the release for later in 1980. However, Susana Estrada and her legion of fans were in for a surprise when Machos was released by Belter as a cassette album in 1980. Nowadays, Susana Estrada’s Machos is a much coveted collector’s item that changes hands for upwards of £100. That is despite Amor Y Libertad, rather than Machos as being regarded as Susana Estrada’s official debut album.

When Susana Estrada came to record Amor Y Libertad, it featured ten songs penned by Carlos De Las Heras. They were recorded at the Belter Studio, in Barcelona, with producer by Josep Llobell Oliver. To accompany Susana Estrada, he had brought onboard Atlanta a talented and experienced funk group who were familiar faces on the local music scene. The combination of Susana Estrada, Atlanta and Josep Llobell Oliver resulted in what would eventually be regarded as a Euro Disco  and cosmic disc classic, Amor Y Libertad.

Initially, Amor Y Libertad was underrated and didn’t receive the recognition many thought it deserved. Critics didn’t seem to ‘get’ Amor Y Libertad, despite its innovative fusion of boogie, cosmic disco, funk, Italo Disco, modern soul and the Munich Sound. Maybe critics were shocked by what many regarded as provocative lyrics, sensual vocals and moans and groans? If that was the case, then songs about sexual liberation and freedom were definitely going to get critics hot under the collar. The reception that Amor Y Libertad received was hugely disappointing for everyone involved in the project.

It was only later that Amor Y Libertad began to receive the recognition it deserved. Nowadays, though,  Amor Y Libertad is regarded as a Euro Disco and cosmic disco classic, That comes as no surprise, given the quality of music on the album, and somewhat belatedly, Amor Y Libertad received the recognition it deserved.

After the release of Amor Y Libertad, Susana Estrada released Mi Chico Favorito as a single later in 1981. This was Susana Estrada’s penultimate release during the eighties.

Susana Estrada’s eighties swan-song was the cassette mini album Historias Inconfesables. It was released by Star Grabaciones Originals later in 1981 and was billed by those within conservative Spain as a: “porno-cassette.” Nowadays, Historias Inconfesables is a real rarity which is almost impossible to find. 

It’s a similar case with Susana Estrada’s most recent album Tócame, which was recorded in 2007, and is best described as Hi-Energy meets Euro Disco. It was a low-key, self-released album by one of the most controversial figures in Spanish music, Susana Estrada.

She was the one time model who went on to enjoy a career as an actress, agony aunt and singer. Susana Estrada also fought for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom. Sadly, her campaigning is often overshadowed by parts of her career that caused controversy.  This may not have been the case in America, Britain or other parts of Europe. However, Spain which was a conservative catholic country, which was in a period of transition from a dictatorship to democracy.

Many people were unprepared for Susana Estrada, who was regarded and perceived as an outspoken, and sometimes, outrageous  and controversial figure even in the eighties. By then, her campaigning and much of her music meant that the establishment and press in Spain portrayed Susana Estrada as a controversial figure. That was somewhat ironic.

What Susana Estrada was campaigning for was women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom, which were things that women in other parts of Europe, Britain and America took for granted.  Alas, in the newly democratic Spain, Susana Estrada’s campaigns caused controversy in the corridors of power. Maybe Spain’s patriarchy were scared or intimated by a strong and independent woman who was willing to make a stand for what she believed in?

Despite being fined, having her passport cancelled and losing her vote for ten years, Susana Estrada wasn’t going to be silenced. She continued to speak for all the Spanish women who had no way of making their views heard. They had been treated as second class citizens during the Francoist regime, and early in Susana Estrada’s career she became the voice of all Spanish women. In doing so, she risked the wrath of the brutal Francoist regime and could’ve lost her liberty. However,  Susana Estrada was willing to stand up for what she believed and continued to do so, throughout a career that lasted four decades.

Throughout her musical career, Susana Estrada became the voice of all Spanish women, and the Spanish Euro Disco diva used her music to reach a wider audience. Susana Estrada who was and is a confinement and modern woman spoke for and to Spanish women, and advised, counselled and campaigned for women’s rights, sexual liberation and the freedom that women in other parts of Europe took for granted. Spain’s first lady of music was determined to make a difference and the grey men in the corridors of power called in favours from their friends in the press and media to blacken Susana Estrada’s name and portray her as a controversial and outrageous figure. However, while nobody remembers the mendacious politicians who were part of a patriarchal political system, they remember Susana Estrada, Spain’s first lady of music not just for the music she made, but for her campaigning and counselling which is part of her legacy.

Susana Estrada- Spain’s First Lady Of Music.

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