‘Raphaelism’: the docuseries that delves into Raphael’s demons

A Raphael (Linares, Jaén, 1943) has always liked to look ahead. “Go back, not even to gain momentum”, the interpreter of hits like What does anyone know, raw, whatever they say Y My big night. However, after more than 60 years on stage, that boy who surprised Europe at the 1966 black and white Eurovision with the intensity of his I am the one has decided that it is time to take stock of his career, and his life, through the detailed four-episode documentary series Raphaelism, that premieres Movistar + This Thursday, January 13.

Created and directed by Charlie Arnaiz and Alberto Ortega, creators of others biopics about Jose Antonio Labordeta (A country in Labordeta) and Francisco Threshold (anatomy of a dandy, which was nominated for a Goya), the docuserie deals with the great moments, but also the ups and downs, of a singer who has always been characterized by the expressiveness of his interpretations. And he does it through more than 50 interviews, both with him and with members of his closest circle, such as family, friends (Pedro Ruiz, Pedro Piqueras…), professional collaborators (the composer Manuel Alejandro, the singer Jose Luis Perales…), fellow professionals (Miguel Ríos, Víctor Manuel, Alaska, David Bisbal, Pablo López, Gloria Trevi…) and journalists (Rosa María Calaf, Iñaki Gabilondo…). “Being the great star that he is, he didn’t ask us for anything strange,” confesses Ortega. “We did tell him that, in order for the work to be interesting for everyone, we had to talk about the good things, but also about the most sensitive issues of his career, and he fully agreed,” he adds.

Transplantation and sexuality

Those more taboo subjects are, for example, how he resorted to alcohol during the solitude of his extensive tours, the criticism he received in the early 1980s for being considered a Francoist artist, his crisis in Las Vegas in 1970 or the gossip about their sexuality. “What merit did he have in the 60s, a person like him appearing on television with tight purple pants moving as he moved! David Bowie could do that and nothing happened, but here the merit is that Raphael did it in the Francoist Spain”, Ortega points out about an obsessively perfectionist singer. “One day I would like to leave the stage crying with joy but I can’t, I always make the most of everything. But that has made it better and better,” emphasizes the artist.

The only red line has been to dwell on the days of his Liver transplant. “Raphael broke down several times talking to us. Not only because of the transplant, but also when he talks about Paco Gordillo, his first manager, and when he recalls the beginnings of his relationship with Natalia [Figueroa, con la que se casó en 1972]”explains Arnaiz. His wife and three children (Jacobo, Manuel and Alejandra Martos) also explain how they coped with those hard times.


‘Raphaelismo’ brings unpublished material from home videos of the Martos-Figueroa family and from recordings made by the artist’s eldest son, Jacobo, about his father. As well as numerous curiosities about the Spanish that was twice consecutive to Eurovision, who was interviewed on the famous ‘show’ of Ed Sullivan through which the Beatles had passed shortly before, which starred in films by Mario Camus and Vicente Escrivá and which filled New York’s Madison Square Garden at a time when Hispanic music was not as fashionable as it is now in the Anglo-Saxon world. The docuseries reveals, for example, how Raphael’s fondness for wearing black on stage began and how, by a bet, one of his greatest successes was forged, Scandal.

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The great stages that have marked Raphael’s career, such as the benidorm festival, the Londoner Talk Of The Town or the mexican The backyard, also serve Arnaiz and Ortega to make a metaphor with the incombustible artist. “After 60 years, many places that have made him legendary are closed or falling down over time and, nevertheless, Raphael is still on stage,” Arnaiz underlines. A symptom of how the Nightingale of Linares, at 78 years old, has been able to adapt decade after decade.

The exhibition

The premiere of the docuseries ‘Raphaelismo’ is accompanied by a exhibition in Madrid (Movistar Store, Gran Vía, 28), from January 10 to February 7, which includes emblematic material from the artist’s career. There are tour and album posters, but above all iconic pieces of her wardrobe, such as the brilliant sequin suits from the musicals ‘Billy the liar’ and ‘Pippin’ and the hat of the dark ‘Jekyll & Hyde’. Visitors can be photographed imitating the most characteristic gestures of the singer, compose a poem based on the titles of his most famous songs and pose next to the Uranium Disk which he achieved in 1980 by reaching 50 million copies sold. I couldn’t miss, of course, the music, with a karaoke where to sing, in his style, the chorus of ‘Mi gran noche’.


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