His Music Reads Like a Book : Jose Jose, in Anaheim Saturday, Calls His Songs ‘My Biography’

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Mexican balladeer Jose Jose is writing his biography--one song at a time.

“I view my records as a personal biography,” says the man who, for 33 years, has sung about the exhilaration of love from the times in his life when he soared, and about the heartache of love from those when he crashed.

A household name in the Spanish-speaking world, Jose Jose is making a comeback. His career nearly derailed when he found himself in the bottom of a bottle after a second failed marriage several years ago.

He credits his family and fans worldwide with bringing him back on track.

“The support I’ve had from all Latin people, and Mexico especially, has allowed me to conquer my alcoholism,” Jose Jose said in a telephone interview from a hotel room in Miami, ahead of his first big concert in Southern California since 1994. He performs Saturday at the Freedman Forum Concert Theatre in Anaheim.


Perhaps his willingness to bare his soul through his music is what kept the 48-year-old singer in the hearts of his fans during his two-year absence, which included a monthlong stay in a recovery clinic in Denver that prompted rumors that he had died.

He sings, as if in a confessional, of the joys and pains of love, knowing that someone, somewhere, is feeling that same sentiment.

“What moves me is to know that I have been part of the sentimental life of many couples around the world,” said the six-time Grammy nominee, who has sold a combined 30 million copies of his library of 32 albums, according to a spokeswoman for his record company. His latest album was released in October. Titled “Mujeriego,” the album is yet another entry into his diary of songs,many of which address his personal ordeal while meshing musical areas seldom touched in romantic Latin pop.

Those efforts at broadening his stylistic spectrum--once primarily limited to soft ballads favored by adult-contemporary radio stations--may have helped the album cross generational gaps.

“That ‘adult contemporary’ status nearly killed me,” he told The Times last December. “C’mon, I’m not a teenager, but I’m not a dinosaur either.”

It was at age 15 that he began his musical career--under his given name, Jose Sosa--following in the footsteps of parents who had relatively successful careers in opera in Mexico. His early performances consisted of serenades and singing at fiestas, something he still enjoys.


“The other day I sang for the president of Mexico, but it is not uncommon for me to go to a small village and sing at the local cafe,” he said, adding that he sings wherever there’s an audience.

He turned professional in 1963, working with a bossa-nova and jazz band that gave him experience he considers crucial to his later work. He never learned to read or write music, but he drew upon the improvisational stylings of the music.

It was “in memory of my father who gave me the voice I have” that he took the name Jose Jose, when his father, also named Jose Sosa, died in 1968.

His success stems more from his warm personality and his passion for music than his high-pitched voice.

His interpretive temperament was made popular through his second and third albums “La nave del olvido” (The Vessel of Forgetting, 1969) and “El triste” (The Sad One, 1970). His 1983 album “Secretos” alone sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.

More recent albums, including 1992’s “40 y 20,” about his first marriage with a woman 20 years his senior, and 1994’s “Grandeza Mexicana” (Mexican Greatness), also sold well domestically and internationally. It was between those two albums, when his second marriage fell apart, that he nearly bottomed out.


The family ties that helped him pull through are evident in “Grandeza Mexicana,” on which he sings a duet with his 19-year-old son, Jose Sosa Jr. Jose Jr. recently launched his own singing career, although father and son are expected to perform together again Saturday.

Married for a third time last year, and the father of 7-month-old Sofia, Jose Jose said he’s ready to add the next chapter to his recorded biography.

“My history has been one of ups and downs,” he said. “But thanks to God, I keep working, drawing from my life experiences songs that I can sing.”

* Jose Jose and Bolero Soul perform Saturday at the Freedman Forum Concert Theatre, 201 E. Broadway, Anaheim. 8:15 p.m. $38-$48. (714) 999-9599.