Jeanette

1971. France, Belgium, England, Mexico, Italy, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela- across the European continent and via the South American airwaves came the latest hit– “Soy Rebelde,” an angelic pop ballad cut by a mysterious young singer residing in Barcelona. The international success of “Soy Rebelde” (I Am Rebellious) spawned the release of English, French, and Japanese versions of the song, while 21-year-old Jeanette Dimech suddenly found herself center stage– the unforeseen idol of Spanish-speaking teenage girls worldwide.

That is how the story goes, but ask most Europeans or Latin Americans to hum a line from “Soy Rebelde” and they’ll be hard-pressed. “Soy Rebelde” might have made a slight dent on the global charts, but the musical career of Jeanette was not a major success story like her biography might lead you to believe. Jeanette was at most, a one-hit wonder, and although she had a couple of singles out on the international circuit, her achievements were pretty much confined to Spain.

With a new generation of music historians and fans tapping into the vaults of pop music from every era and spot on the world map, there are few artists who have yet to be re-discovered. Over 30 years has passed since the release of “Soy Rebelde,” yet Jeanette remains one of pop music’s best-kept secrets. Aside from a few Spanish fans singing her praises on the Internet, and Japanese hip-star Kahimi Karie covering “Porque Te Vas” on her 1994 Girly EP, Jeanette remains a mystery to most. After all, she didn’t belong to any particular musical movement, nor did Jeanette’s style blend in with whatever else was popular during the ’70s and ’80s. In Japan, obsessive pop music enthusiasts called her the “whispering Lolita” and her records are usually filed under French Yé-Yé or Sixties Pop. The sound of Jeanette lies somewhere between The Paris Sister’s “I Love How You Love Me” and 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” – in the locale of the sixties and the seventies, amidst Priscilla Paris’ honeyed vocals and Graham Gouldman’s soothing ’70s production. Jeanette was forever the in-betweener and the most romantic voice in pop music.

In between musical eras and genres, constantly being shuffled between cities and continents, Jeanette spent her childhood on the go. Although she was born in London in 1951, the Dimech family quickly packed their belongings and immigrated to Chicago. No sooner were they off again- this time to Los Angeles, where Jeanette would spend her childhood years- an era she looks upon “with great affection,” and defines by “my brown complexion and the two braids I wore everyday.” As her twelfth birthday approached, Jeanette’s blissful American life was crushed by the news of her parent’s divorce. Jeanette’s mother no longer wanted to live in the states, and so she moved Jeanette and her three brothers to Spain.

Jeanette arrived in Barcelona without any knowledge of the Spanish language, and devastated to have left her home in Los Angeles. She was placed in an American school, but soon struck up friendships with the local Spanish kids. She credits “the streets” for teaching her Spanish and although she missed American hamburgers, Jeanette said, “I began to appreciate bread with tomatoes and the tortillas made of potatoes.”

London-bred and American-raised, Jeanette was now a teenager readily adjusting to her new life in Barcelona. It was 1965, and the radio played Bob Dylan, Donovan, and the Byrds while Spanish boys saved their weekly allowances to buy guitars and harmonicas. Jeanette loved music, and was given a guitar as a present- a cheap, shackled one- but she cherished it nonetheless. She wrote three songs, one of which was called “Callate Nina,”- a track that she would end up recording with her first band, Pic-Nic.

When Jeanette met her future band-mates, they were hanging out in the cellar of a pharmacy, playing in a group called Brenner’s Folk. She brought along her guitar, and played the boys of Brenner’s Folk a selection of her recent compositions. They found common ground in their love of folk music, and went on to record a demo at the Radio Youth Of Barcelona Studio, which they presented to a Spanish record label called Hispavox. Seeing as Brenner’s Folk had a new female member, they decided to give the group a new name. They chose Pic-Nic.

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Jeanette calls Pic-Nic guitarist and songwriter, Toti Soler her musical hero. “We were both really inspired by American music,” Jeanette said. “Thanks to Toti I was able to compose songs with more class and better taste.” Toti helped Jeanette re-work her song, “Callate Nina,” and in 1967, “Callate Nina” became the first hit for Jeanette and Pic-Nic. An LP of both can you buy lorazepam mexico originals and covers (of artists like Janis Ian and Peter, Paul, & Mary) was also released, but Pic-Nic called it quits soon after. Toti Soler continues to work in the field of music, while the others have explored different pastures. As for Jeanette, it seemed like she too had given up on music, opting instead to move to Austria with her new husband. Rumor has it that Jeanette was offered a screen-test by filmmaker, Roman Polanski, but she turned down the director, and was off to Austria to settle down and give birth to her first child.

It was in 1970 when a phone call came through from Spain. It was Hispavox on the line, and they wanted Jeanette. Apparently Hispavox saw the potential for Jeanette as a solo artist, and they were calling to get her back to Spain. Jeanette was not too thrilled by the prospect of leaving her happy family life in Austria, but someone was certainly able to convince her. By the summer of ’70 she was back in Barcelona, in the studio ready to record a song she was not particularly fond of.

“To tell you the truth, I did not like ‘Soy Rebelde,” Jeanette said of her first solo single. “My style of music was folk music- the music I made with Pic-Nic- but Hispavox wanted me to sing this romantic music that I could not relate to.” Songwriter Manuel Alejandro originally wrote “Soy Rebelde” for a Mexican singer named Sola, but it was Jeanette’s version that charted, and gave the 21-year-old her second shot at a career in music. Hiring a slew of extremely capable songwriters was a wise first step for Hispavox, but without that voice, that angelic whisper- that which Manuel Alejandro calls “the tiniest voice I have ever heard,” “Soy Rebelde” would’ve been just another song by some Mexican singer named Sola. “Soy Rebelde” was Jeanette’s first and biggest hit, and at that moment occurred the transformation of Jeanette Dimech, tomboy and unwilling front woman, to just Jeanette, the Spanish voice of romance.

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Jeanette has a voice that is forever sixteen- effortless and untrained, made of the same sweetness and appeal that turned millions onto Priscilla Paris’ purrs and Karen Carpenter’s warm and natural pipes. Songwriters Manuel Alejandro and José Luis Perales knew precisely the kind of music Jeanette’s silky voice called for- romantic ballads like “Frente A Frente” and “Soy Rebelde,” ABBA-esque pop anthems like “Cuando Estoy Con El” and one particular galloping pop number called “Porque Te Vas.” It was 1974 when Hispavox suggested “Porque Te Vas” (Why Are You Leaving) for Jeanette to record. No one would have guessed that an upbeat pop song layered in big beats, horns, and wah-wah guitars would mesh with Jeanette’s delicate voice, but the result was stunning. “Porque Te Vas” faired poorly during the weeks after its release, but the song was revived two years later when director Carlos Saura chose it as the title track for the film Cria Cuervo. The film won the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film festival, garnering quite a bit of attention for the soundtrack. “Porque Te Vas” was a hit in France, and soon caused a small ripple effect that reached as far as Japan.

Jeanette released numerous solo albums throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Amidst ’80s disco fever and the beginning of new wave came Corazon De Poeta, the definitive Jeanette album that couldn’t have been more wrong for the times. Music fans weren’t buying breezy romantic pop, and so Jeanette’s hits dried up after “Porque Te Vas.” Quite a shame since Corazon De Poeta is the highlight of Jeanette’s offerings- the album where all the elements come together to achieve the perfect flow. Jeanette was born to sing title track, “Corazon De Poeta,” my personal favorite among the many Jeanette gems. RCA International re-released Corazon De Poeta on CD, but the horrendously cheap packaging and large “budget price” sticker on the cover would hardly convince anyone, that this is indeed one of the great pop albums.

Not much is known about Jeanette’s recent whereabouts, although she did pen the liner notes for a compilation of her music in 1996. A number of Jeanette CD compilations have surfaced over the years, but they remain buried in the budget bins. The Spanish voice of romance is still hushed, obscure, and waiting to be rediscovered. Let the revival begin.

Note: I wrote this piece for “Cha Cha…” about five years ago when there was very little information on Jeanette available in English. Since then, she’s popped up on quite a few (English-language) music blogs so the revival has indeed begun! 

6 Responses to Jeanette

  1. Beth says:

    well written. I found out about Jeanette through this website a few years ago. I now own three cds of her. Thanks for telling me about her.

    • Maurissio Rodriguez says:

      You’re lucky, but I’m glad you’re a fan of Jeanette. If you have Twitter or facebook, you can follow or like her.

  2. Maurissio Rodriguez says:

    I first heard about Jeanette when I was a junior in high school. She is a wonderful and splendid person, and I really love her songs. When I read this article, I didn’t know she was a tomboy. Yet I understood she was a prominent figure who skyrocketed to popularity with her music.

    Did you know “Soy Rebelde” was on the Spanish charts for 23 weeks? It was from November 20, 1971, to April 22, 1972.

    In

  3. Maurissio Rodriguez says:

    Excuse me, in the future, if I’m in the music business, I will work extremely hard to preserve Jeanette’s music. I will make her songs well-known, and I will see these things happen. I will start a revival.

    Thank you for your article. It brings me joy to my heart.

  4. Do Jones says:

    No need for revival. Her voice will always come back.

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