Pablo Beltrán Ruiz

It’s December 2021. The world has been suffering through the Covid-19 pandemic for almost two years. I’ve spent most of that time sitting at my kitchen island, experiencing life through my computer and my phone. But finally, fortunately, I find myself out once again, walking the colourful streets of a small Mexican town. It feels strange. I am cautious. I know the virus is still among us, but I am taking a calculated risk so as to seize the day and experience something new. I’m so tired of living behind a screen.

We enter the town square as the sun is starting to set. The square isn’t full by any means, but there are a few people milling around or sitting along the edges. On a stage adorned with a gigantic Christmas star-shaped piñata, four children sing holiday favourites. A father and his little girl, both wearing masks, dance in front of the stage. A tall Christmas tree towers over one side of the square, and multiple little stalls hold vendors plying their wares. It’s pleasant and quietly festive. 

The children finish their concert, and the PA system takes over. The very first song that plays is so familiar to me. My heart lifts before I can even form the song’s title in my mind. I knew it long before I knew Mexico. I knew it long before I learned it was written by a Mexican. I knew it from the combination of my parents’ musical tastes and growing up at a time when the English version of it was performed widely. 

Actually, it’s still performed widely, and it’s one you likely know. In English, it’s called “Sway,” and it’s been done by countless artists, including superstars Dean Martin, who first made it internationally famous, and Michael Bublé. 

But the original version is “Quién será” by Pablo Beltrán Ruiz (1915-2008). Ruiz was an introverted child. His parents died when he was very young, so he went to live with his aunt. At one point, his musical leanings beginning to develop, he began taking piano lessons and boldly asked the famous Sinaloan maestro Tirso Robles for the opportunity to work carrying the instruments for Robles’ orchestra.

Eventually, Ruiz made his way to Mexico City, where he studied law for a year and then chemistry for three years. However, his interest in music continued to grow. While studying chemistry, Ruiz started his first musical group, which he called “Pat Sanders.” He also began studying at the Escuela Libre de Música (Free School of Music) with professor José Vázquez. 

Playing frequently with his band at various venues around Mexico City, Ruiz met the occasional celebrity, and one fateful evening, he met Mapy Cortés, a Puerto Rican actress who appeared in several movies in Mexico’s golden era of film. Cortés was able to connect Ruiz with the right people at the popular radio station XEW. He’d begun songwriting, and his band grew and became “Pablo Beltrán Ruiz y Su Orchestra.” They were the first to record “¿Quién Será La Que Me Quiere A Mí?,” in 1953, and it was a minor hit. In 1954, Norman Gimbel translated the song into English, calling it “Sway,” and Dean Martin’s recording of it skyrocketed to international fame. It remains one of the most well-known jazz songs all over the world. 

Ruiz wrote numerous songs for radio play and live performance, including “Picnic a Go-Go” (1966) and “La Sombra de tu Sonrisa” (1966), an instrumental version of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” But he also contributed prolifically to movie soundtracks, including “Escuela de vagabundos” (1954) starring Pedro Infante and Miroslava, “¡Paso a la juventud..!” (1957) starring Tin Tan, “México nunca duerme” (1958) directed by Alejandro Galindo, and “Su Excelencia” (1966) starring Mario Moreno, also known as “Cantinflas.”

However, Ruiz’ most significant and lasting contribution to music culture is undeniably “Quién Será.” In addition to its having been performed countless times by diverse artists, the song, in both English and Spanish, has graced the soundtracks of countless diverse movie and television productions, including Silver Linings Playbook, Glee, House, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Australian Idol, CSI: NY, Shall We Dance, and many, many more. 

It’s a song that we’ve all heard, whether we realize it or not, and it’s still going strong all over the world nearly 70 years after it was written. What an incredible piece of music history! And it originated in Mexico, from a man who started out studying law and chemistry. 

What a joy and a comfort to hear that gorgeous, familiar, timeless song fill the square that evening in that little Mexican pueblo–a visceral reminder that beauty and magic still exist in this deeply troubled world.

1 Pablo Beltrán Ruíz “El Millonario” – El Sol de Hidalgo

2 Pablo Beltrán Ruíz “El Millonario” – El Sol de Hidalgo

3 Pablo Beltran Ruiz | composer – concert band Noten & Partituren – HeBu Musikverlag GmbH

4 Pablo Beltrán Ruíz “El Millonario” – El Sol de Hidalgo

5 Pablo Beltran Ruiz | composer – concert band Noten & Partituren – HeBu Musikverlag GmbH

6 Mapy Cortés

7 Pablo Beltrán Ruíz “El Millonario” – El Sol de Hidalgo

8 Pablo Beltran Ruiz | composer – concert band Noten & Partituren – HeBu Musikverlag GmbH

9 Pablo Beltran Ruiz | composer – concert band Noten & Partituren – HeBu Musikverlag GmbH

10 Pablo Beltran Ruiz | composer – concert band Noten & Partituren – HeBu Musikverlag GmbH

11 Pablo Beltrán Ruiz – IMDb

Picture of Pablo Beltrán Ruiz from El repositorio digital de acceso abierto del Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia de México

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