It started, as so many things do, with a girl.
Antonio Romeo Monge and Rafael Ruiz — two gypsy musicians from Seville, Spain, better known as Los del Río — were at a private party when a beautiful Venezuelan girl walked by. “Rafael, what a beautiful thing,” Monge told his friend. And right there and then, he made up a little ditty for her: “Dale a tu cuerpo alegría Madalena/ Que tu cuerpo es pa’ darle alegria y cosa Buena” (which roughly translates to: “Give your body happiness, Madalena, for your body is made to give it happiness and good things”).
That night in his hotel room, Monge played with the lyrics, changed the girl’s name to Macarena in honor of his daughter, and that was it.
The Bayside Boys’ bilingual “Macarena” remix was released in August 1995. It went to No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its first run, dwindled, then exploded after WKTU in New York added the record in May 1996, and it eventually climbed to No. 1 on the chart Aug. 3, 1996.
It was the longest climb ever to No. 1 in the history of the chart, but it was worth it. “Macarena” stayed on top for 14 weeks, tying with six other songs for the second-longest run at No. 1 since the chart began in 1958.
As for the song’s accompanying dance, Los del Río premiered “Macarena” at an edition of the annual Seville Fair, and there, the crowd spontaneously conceived the moves as a kind of easy rumba with the “Hey!” at the end for emphasis.
And Antonio and Rafael? “We have no words to thank everyone,” Antonio tells Billboard. “We’re just two guys from a small town, doing things very humbly because we come from very humble families, we lost our parents very young, we’ve worked so hard, and to see ourselves here?
“That girl Macarena really was something,” added Rafael.