It only took four years, three countries, two Spaniards and a Miami DJ team, but on Aug. 3, 1996, Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” topped the Billboard Hot 100, wrapping an improbable journey to the summit of the American pop charts for a song whose origin dates to a 1992 party in Venezuela.
There, Los Del Rio – the duo of Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruíz Perdigones from Seville, Spain – was inspired by a woman named Madalena, which led Romero to craft the melody that would become “Macarena” during a 1993 studio session.
The track arrived on U.S. shores via Miami, after then-WPOW (Power 96) DJ Jammin Johnny Caride heard it at a local nightclub. Although his station avoided playing exclusively-Spanish songs, Caride persuaded his bosses to make an exception. The program director demanded an English version, so Caride recruited two partners to rework the lyrics while retaining the original hook.
The retooled “Macarena,” dubbed the Bayside Boys mix, gained traction outside Miami in other big cities, and the rising attention pushed the song to No. 45 on the Hot 100 in late 1995. But once New York’s WKTU added the song into its lineup, it exploded into the nation’s newest phenomenon. With its new audience, the single returned to the chart in May 1996 and finally reached No. 1 in its 33rd week on the list – now the second-longest rise, in terms of weeks on the chart, to the top slot after another beloved anthem from the ’90s: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” led at last, in its 35th frame, in 2019.
“Macarena,” of course, became a sensation thanks to its signature dance that swept the nation, and its popularity was so unavoidable that it became a highlight of the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, with C-SPAN airing a four-minute clip of delegates, including then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, performing the dance on the convention floor.