This year also celebrates the 100th birth date of César Portillo de la Luz -Havana, October 31, 1922-, star Cuban composer, singer and guitarist chosen by destiny to be the author of the unforgettable ”With you in the distance” (1946), among the leaders of the most coveted songs in the world of the rich musical heritage of the Island.
So many years after its creation, the piece is still considered a jewel of the Latin and North American staff, since among its most famous foreign performers have been Nat King Cole, Cristina Aguilera, Luis Miguel, Lucho Gatica, although the merit of recording the first version corresponded to Mexican Fernando Fernández, in 1947, launching it to a success that time has only sustained and highlighted.
But César Portillo de la Luz, who also died in his hometown on May 4, 2013, is more than the blessed “With you in the distance”. His is also “Cuban Night”, another beautiful piece of great quality, and he is the author of unforgettable songs such as “You”, “My Passion”, “It's our song”, “Song of the Juanes” and songs that paid tribute to legendary figures such as Ernesto Che Guevara and Salvador Allende.
In a general sense, due to the importance he gave to harmony and instrumental music, his pieces were widely used as themes in movies. He was also the owner of a melodic line of great beauty, which did not disdain the Cuban rhythm and the influence of jazz.
This creator, who also drank from popular sources such as the Mexican tango and huapango, strove to always put himself in contact with the most diverse musical sources, not only popular, but also classical, in a self-taught way. Without academic musical studies, his brilliant talent and open spirit, eager for any new influence in the experimental field, naturally led him to become part of the outstanding creative movement called feeling, created in the 1940s in Havana, at the humble neighborhood of Cayo Hueso.
“I am the feeling”, he told me once when interviewing him, emphasizing how deeply identified he was with that way of creating and interpreting that marked a rupture and a novelty in Cuban music. It would be too much to mention the infinite list of his interpreters in Cuba and the world, which we have already heard and will continue to do so, with the pleasure and tremendous pride that he is our compatriot.