Julio Iglesias: ‘I was a flirting man, a rock’n’roll guy’
The Spanish crooner is about to play Ireland for the first time in 30 years. He didn’t sleep with 3,000 women but he swims naked (maybe)
Julio Iglesias on stage in South Africa. Photograph: Michelly Rall/Wireimage
Iglesias with his wife, Miranda, and their fifth son, Guillermo
Iglesias showing off his ball skills in 1974
‘Tell me, Patrick, what you want to know about me,” says Julio Iglesias, singer, millionaire, international superstar, father of an international superstar, entertainer to peasants and kings, lover of many, many beautiful women. He laughs throatily (“Kha! Kha! Kha!”) and I imagine him tossing his still-impressive-for-a-70-year-old mane of hair.
“How can I be you, Julio?” I want to ask, but I don’t. I ask instead what it’s like to be touring in his 70s. He laughs his throaty laugh. “Kha! Kha! Kha! You think, ‘My God, he’s 70 years old and still is kicking? Why is he still kicking?’ Because If I don’t kick, I’ll die!”
Julio Iglesias is not a disappointing interviewee. He hyperbolises, he is emotionally descriptive, he refers to me as “my friend” and he is well aware of the caricature version of himself and plays up to it.
“I am 70 years old but when I go on stage I am 25,” he says. “My blood runs in my body so strong that my brains get together with my heart and my body. It’s something very special. The reason why I’m singing still today is nothing else but the passion. It’s not a question of money. I have plenty of money in my desk [I picture a desk filled with money]. It’s a question of passion. I would not be alive if I didn’t sing. Physically maybe I’d be alive, sure, but I would not be what I am now.”
All that passion was originally directed towards professional football. “I was not a superstar,” he says, “but I played on a super team, Real Madrid. Then I almost killed myself in an accident. I was quite paralysed for one year and a half and I played guitar because they give me a guitar as therapy to get my fingers moving, and I started to develop some knowledge of harmonies and put together some lyrics. I believe that millions of people around the world have deep inside the ability to discover another project in life. That’s what happened to me. Otherwise I would not be talking to you right now.”
Iglesias quickly became internationally successful. To this day he records his songs in French, Portuguese, Spanish, English, even Chinese, and he plays all over the world. He had a good time in those early days. “I had the best time in my life, because I was young,” he says. “My spirit would flow, my soul was alert, my brains were still not built, so my instinct was superior to my thoughts. Whenever the eyes of another person come to my eyes I fixed my eyes on that person. I was a flirting man. You know what I mean? I was in that time a rock’n’roll guy.”
So he had a bit of a reputation? “That’s a little more fantasy than reality,” he says. “That I love women? I can tell you that that’s true. That I learn from women? That is true. That I respect women like crazy? Yes. If I did not respect women, I would not have eight kids.” He pauses. “If someone says I made love to more than 3,000 women [as was claimed in the 1970s] that’s okay, I’m not going to go door-to-door to tell people it’s not true. But it’s not true.”
It’s not true? “That I made love to more than 3,000 people? That was 1972, by now it would be up to 25,000! Kha! Kha! Kha!”
Wake, exercise, nap, rehearse
These days his lifestyle is much more relaxed. “Let me explain to you my life during my concerts. I wake up 9am. I do one hour of exercises. I don’t take coffee or caffeine. I sleep three more hours, relax, watch television or whatever. At four I go to the dressing room, then rehearse for one hour just to have fun with my musicians. I go to my dressing room. I relax my brain and body, and half an hour before the concert I get together with my brains and my feelings. I get dressed, go on stage and have the best time in my life. Every. Time.” (He emphasises the words).
After the show? “I have a shower. Then to a good restaurant. I drink a good wine and I take my plane if I have to go to another place. That’s my life.”
“You have a plane!” I exclaim.
“You bought me that plane,” he says. “The people who read this newspaper. The people who come to my concerts. They bought me this plane. What am I going to do? Say no? I say yes. I say yes to my plane.”
What does he do when not on tour?
“When I don’t tour, I swim naked.”
There’s a pause and then: “Kha! Kha! Kha!” The last “kha!” has a bit of a squeak at the end because he finds this really funny. “You should see my eyes when I said that about swimming naked. I love interviews.”
What about his musically inclined children? “Enrique is smashing. Julio [who had a less successful pop career] is also a super guy. He’s very charming. I adore Julio and Enrique. The little one, Rodrigo, is making a band with the son of Phil Collins. They study in the same school and play together. Their first appearance was a week ago. He’s 14.”
Does he give advice to Enrique? “You cannot advise a champion, and he is a champion. A natural.”
He doesn’t seem eager to talk about his family, so I ask him whether growing up in Franco’s Spain politicised him in any way. “I’m a liberal guy, but I don’t belong to the left or the right or any of that s**t,” he says. “It is very difficult for me to believe in a strong way most of the politicians. They talk with words they don’t believe with their souls. They always promise. An artist sometimes has relations with politicians. I was a few days ago in Nicaragua and had a great conversation with [president] Daniel Ortega. I went to Panama and had a great conversation with [president Richard] Martinelli. I met the Clinton family and had a great conversation.”
And he also sang a duet with Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator, Islam Karimov, at a fashion event she organised in 2008. “I don’t give a s**t about what they say about that,” he says. “I played China and they said nothing. I played Russia and they said nothing. I play every country in the world and they say nothing. I go to a place and I play for 7,000 people. I don’t ask, ‘Where are you from? What is your ideal situation?’ I go and sing all my feelings.”
He says that international leaders often appear to be friendly with one another but things are more complex behind the scenes. “You see Putin and Obama and they shake hands and smile together. You have to understand that sometimes when people hate each other, they kiss each other.” He laughs. The laugh seems edgier this time.
He’s speaking to me from his Miami “sanctuary”, where he has a wife, Dutch model Miranda Rijnsburger, a young family, five dogs (“they move their tails when they see me – that is the biggest success in my life”), a priceless wine collection, and a producer preparing to record him (“He’s out playing golf”).
He is looking forward to his first Irish gig in decades. “Let me explain to you about Ireland,” he says. “For me the Irish blood is part of my life. I have a strong understanding of what your country is about, what Irish people have built in other countries. And I understand the way the Irish people sing. There is not another country in the world who sing better than the Irish people.”
All in all, Julio Iglesias is pretty happy with his lot. “When you start to understand that life is a short time,” he says, “that unfortunately there is always an end, when you start to think you cannot run because others run stronger or that the mountain is getting too tall, just take an elevator or fly. Understand that every minute of your life is a great gift.”
Julio Iglesias plays Dublin’s O2 on May 15