Mexican singer Ana Gabriel is a powerhouse who continues to fill arenas with two-hour plus shows that are veritable vocal tour de forces. Which makes sense, considering Gabriel has placed 20 top 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot Latin songs chart, including an impressive six No. 1s.
What many don’t know is Ana Gabriel is also a songwriter who actually penned many of these hits. Among them is “Quién Como Tú,” which exactly 30 years ago, reached No. 1 on the chart dated May 5, 1990.
The song was included in the album of the same name, which became Ana Gabriel’s second No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Albums chart, also led the list for seven weeks and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1990 for best Latin pop album.
On the eve of Cinco de Mayo, we caught up with Ana Gabriel and spoke about the enduring popularity of her hit.
Do you remember where you were when you wrote this song?
It’s very clear in my mind. I was at my apartment in Colonia Tlalpan in Mexico City. That’s where I wrote it. Why I wrote it I can’t ever tell you, because the muse comes to me, or would come, in the moments when I least expected it. It can come at 1:00 a.m; at 2:00 or 3:00. What I can tell you is that for many years, I always had next to me a pencil, a piece of paper, a tape recorder and my guitar.
This is such an emotional song. Did you write it for anyone in particular?
I never wrote songs for anyone in particular, except for one I wrote for my grandparents and one for my guitar. But I never wrote dedicating a song to anyone. I always wrote as a way to exteriorize what I was feeling. It’s like a gift you’re not expecting; a wrapped box that you begin to open and things start coming out. For example, “Y Aquí Estoy” is a song I wrote around that time, but only when my mother died in 2016 did I start dedicating it always to her. Now, it has an owner. But in general, I think fans are the owners of songs.
You’ve said you usually don’t stop working on a song until it’s ready. When is it ready?
When the fans hear it. I never really fully finish songs, because even when I’m recording, I’ll change a word or a phrase or I’ll correct the melody. I write words and music at the same time. And I don’t write by commission. I’m not a composer by trade. I’m a composer because I am. When I grab my guitar, it’s because I have something to say.
“Quién Como Tú” has been covered many times and in many ways. Do you have a favorite version?
Honestly, they all sit well with me. I was very surprised by a salsa version. I like to hear my songs redone, with a different rhythm. That’s what music is about. I have to be grateful to have people identify with something that wasn’t made with that intention. I never imagined my music would connect.
In fact, at the beginning I rarely recorded my own material because I felt I was baring my soul. And then I started recording and I realized they work. “Quién Como Tú” is one of those songs I always have to perform, and it’s found a new, younger audience. And it’s not an easy song to sing! But people like that. I’m blessed, because thanks to my songs I’ve reached more people.