Don't Cry for Me Argentina"Don't Cry for Me Argentina" is a song recorded by Julie Covington for the 1976 concept album Evita, later included in the 1978 musical of the same name. The song was written and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice while they were researching the life of Argentine leader Eva Perón. It appears at the opening of the first and second acts, as well as near the end of the show, initially as the spirit of the dead Eva exhorting the people of Argentina not to mourn her, during Eva's speech from the balcony of the Casa Rosada, and during her final broadcast.
Covington was signed by the songwriters after Lloyd Webber saw her in a cabaret performance.
The Evita album had taken 3–4 months to record, since Rice was not satisfied with the intensity of the initial recordings. The song had a number of different titles before "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was chosen as the final one. The song shares its melody with "Oh What a Circus" from the same show and lyrically consists of platitudes where Eva tries to win the favour of the people of Argentina. It was released in the United Kingdom on 12 November 1976 as the first single from the album, accompanied by national and trade advertising, full-colour posters, display sleeves as well as radio interviews.
The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and earned a gold certification from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), with over a million copies sold. It also reached the top of the charts in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and the Netherlands. "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was critically appreciated, with Rice and Lloyd Webber winning the 1977 Ivor Novello award in the category of Best Song Musically and Lyrically. When Evita moved to a London theatre, Covington—who had become disenchanted with the whole project—refused to reprise the part of Eva, and the role went to Elaine Paige. "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" has been covered by multiple artists, including The Carpenters, Olivia Newton-John, and Sinéad O'Connor as well as actors Lea Michele and Chris Colfer from the TV series Glee.
In 1996, American singer Madonna played the title role in the film adaptation of the musical and recorded her rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina". Released as the second single from the film soundtrack on 4 February 1997, her version received positive reviews from music critics who praised her vocal performance. A separate version called the "Miami Mix", which included re-recorded vocals in English and Spanish and an Argentinian bandoneon, was promoted to radio. Madonna's version reached number one on the European Hot 100 Singles chart and the national charts of the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, and Spain. It also became a top-ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and many other charts worldwide, while attaining gold or platinum in six countries.
Background and development
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice while they were developing Evita for Broadway in 1976. Both were extremely intrigued by the stories surrounding the life of Eva Perón while researching her during the mid-1970s. Evita was initially produced as an album, before being adapted for the stage, following a formula that Lloyd Webber and Rice had employed during the production of Jesus Christ Superstar, their previous musical. The duo had written the songs for a female singer with good vocals.
Rice and Webber's research showed that Eva had not in reality delivered any major oration on the day of her husband Juan Perón's inauguration ceremony, but not long after becoming Argentina's new First Lady she started making highly emotional speeches, the intensity of which they wanted to capture with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina". The song was composed to appear at the opening and near the end of the show, initially as the spirit of the dead Eva exhorting the people of Argentina not to mourn her, and finally during Eva's speech from the balcony of Casa Rosada. Its melody is similar to the opening song of the musical, "Oh What a Circus", and puts emphasis on Eva's funeral. As "Oh What a Circus" ended with the character Che's sarcastic questioning of the mourning behind Eva's death, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" started with only few lines being sung, while the rest of the song was reserved for the finale.
After the song was composed, Lloyd Webber and Rice were struggling to find a suitable musical actress for the songs and the titular role, since the only one they knew, Yvonne Elliman, had moved to the United States. One day they were watching the British musical television show, Rock Follies, where they noticed actress and singer Julie Covington, who played an aspiring rock musician. Covington had played in London musicals like Godspell, and her acting abilities in Rock Follies convinced Rice and Lloyd Webber to sign her for Evita.
Covington was extremely intrigued by their proposal, considering Eva Perón to be a non-commercial idea for a musical. Nevertheless, she thought that the songs were great compositions and signed on for recording them. Lloyd Webber and Rice immediately started recording, and the first demos were those of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You" and "Buenos Aires", with just piano as an accompaniment. They moved on to sign a deal with MCA Records, to release an album based on the songs, however with extremely poor royalty rates since the record company executives did not expect the album to be a success. In the meantime, singers for all the other roles of the musical were also signed, and the cast moved to Olympic Studios in 1975 to start recording.
Recording and compositionPersonnel working on the Evita album included recording engineer David Hamilton-Smith, Simon Philips on drums, Mo Foster on bass, Joe Moretti and Ray Russell on guitars and Anne Odell on keyboards. David Snell played the harp while Anthony Bowles conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra, while another choir called the London Boy Singles was directed by Alan Doggett. Members of The Grease Band, including bassist Alan Spenner and rhythm guitarist Neil Hubbard, also played on the album. It took a total of 3–4 months to finish the recording.The intensity which Rice looked for in the track was not immediately achieved during recording, because it is a sentimental ballad and because of its lyrics. As the delivery date of the recording approached, they got more tense since most of the album was put together. Only this song was left as they could not decide on the final title, and Rice tried out names which did not make sense within the political and dramatic atmosphere of the story. They had initially tried out various lyrics as the main hook and title of the song including "It's Only Your Lover Returning" and "All Through My Crazy and Wild Days" amid fears that mentioning Argentina would reduce the commercial appeal. Rice recalled, "What a crass decision! It was probably the only time (honest) that I had made the mistake of caring more about a lyric's potential outside the show than its importance within it, and as a result both song and show suffered." Covington had already recorded the phrase "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" for using it in the beginning of the show. Shortly before the album was finally mixed, Lloyd Webber suggested to Rice that the line also worked as the title of Eva's speech. As soon as Covington recorded with the new name, the song fit "perfectly" in the mood of the sequence and was included in the album.
The title of the song comes from an epitaph on a plaque at Eva Perón's grave in the La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. The plaque was presented by the city's taxi drivers' union and roughly translates as: "Don't cry for me Argentina, I remain quite near to you." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote "For years I have wondered, during 'Don't Cry for Me, Argentina,' why we were not to cry. Now I understand: We need not cry because (a) Evita got everything out of life she dreamed of, and (b) Argentina should cry for itself. Even poor Juan Peron should shed a tear or two; he is relegated...to the status of a 'walker,' a presentable man who adorns the arm of a rich and powerful woman as a human fashion accessory." The song's lyrics are a "string of meaningless platitudes" according to Rice, who felt that it worked as an emotionally intense but empty speech by a "megalomaniac woman" trying to win the favor of the Argentines. It features the lyrics "And as for fortune, and as for fame / I never invited them in / Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired / They are illusions".
Webber's orchestral accompaniment added a different level to the track, with its composition consisting of pizzicato strings, and its flowing tempo introducing Covington's opening vocals. The song jumps from being light to heavy and extravagant, with one section of it being hummed by choral voices. As the final lyrics goes, "But all you have to do is look at me to know / That every word is true" is sung, the London Philharmonic Orchestra comes into play with a huge climax and ends. According to the sheet music published by Music Sales Group, the song starts with a sequence of G/D–A7/D–D–Bm/D, changes to E–E/D–A/C–E7–A–D, with the chorus featuring a chord progression of A–Bm–Dmaj7–Gmaj7–G–Fm7. The song is composed in the key of C major with Covington's vocals spanning from the nodes of E3 to G5.
Release and reception
Following the completion of the recording of the album, the Evita team switched on to full promotion of the release, with photographer Tony Snowdon shooting the promotional pictures. The single version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was released in the United Kingdom on 12 November 1976, accompanied by national and trade advertising, full-colour posters, display sleeves as well as radio interviews. Another song from the musical, "Rainbow High", was listed as its B-side. MCA marketing manager Stuart Watson explained to Billboard that their chief goal was to "get an explanation of the story of Eva Perón over to the public". The song received critical appreciation, with The Sunday Times calling it a "masterpiece". However, Rice and Lloyd Webber felt that they needed more promotion to reach the general audience who would buy the record. They had initially decided for a number of television show appearances and performances, but Covington was uninterested in the project altogether and refused to promote it further. Her reasons included wanting to perform the song with the same studio orchestra and accompaniments, and she was also against a single release from the album.
The song was never performed live on British music show, Top of the Pops, since Covington refused and whenever it was featured on the show, a montage of images of the real Eva was shown in the backdrops. However, during the week it was number one, she appeared in the audience. Rice and Lloyd Webber then targeted BBC Radio 1, which was in its infancy, but still popular among the general crowd. They had a fairly tight selection of songs they aired on their channels, and Radio 1 completely refused to add "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" in their playlists. Rice and Lloyd Webber panicked and were almost on the verge of releasing another track from Evita called "Another Suitcase in Another Hall", recorded by Barbara Dickson, as the second single. But Radio 1 finally relented and started playing the song due to positive response from audiences.
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina" debuted at number 37 on the UK Singles Chart on the week ending 25 December 1976. It started climbing up the chart but for 3 weeks it was kept from reaching the top spot by David Soul's "Don't Give Up on Us". On the week ending 12 February 1977, the song reached the top of the charts. It was first certified silver in January 1977, and then certified gold a month later by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), selling almost one million physical copies in the United Kingdom. Together with digital sales since it has sold about 1.01 million copies according to the Official Charts Company. The single also reached the top of the charts in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and Netherlands; in the latter country it sold around 100,000 copies. Seeing the success of the single, Rice and Lloyd Webber proceeded with promoting the song in the United States. However, the personnel at MCA Records' US office were not able to come to terms regarding how to promote the adult contemporary oriented track; it was ultimately never sent to Top 40/CHR radio, and did not appear on any US charts.
Aftermath and impactWhen the cast of the London musical version of Evita was being decided, Rice and Lloyd Webber naturally approached Covington to play the titular role. However, she chose not to reprise the role. Producer Hal Prince wanted to cast a relatively unknown actress to play Eva, and thus Elaine Paige was signed for the part. In 1977, Rice and Lloyd Webber received the Ivor Novello award in the category of Best Song Musically and Lyrically. During the 1982 Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina, the song was sometimes played sarcastically by British regimental bands as they deployed to the Falklands. They changed the lyrics, singing it as "You don't frighten me Argentina / The truth is we will defeat you / We'll sink your carrier, with our Sea Harrier / And with our Sea Kings subs'll be sinking". At the same time the Covington recording was banned from play on the BBC. The song was also banned in the Philippines during the dictatorship (1972–86) of President Ferdinand Marcos. The life of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Marcos' wife, is similar to that of Evita Peron. The presentation of the musical Evita was repressed. In the United States, the song is also closely linked with Patti LuPone, who performed the role of Eva in the original Broadway production of the show.
Track listing and formats
Credits and personnel
Since its release, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" has been covered by numerous artists. Principally, it has been recorded by a number of actors portraying Eva Peron in subsequent productions of Evita including Elaine Paige (1978 Original London Cast Recording), Patti LuPone (1979 Original Broadway Cast Recording) and Elena Roger (2006 London Cast and 2014 Broadway Cast Recordings). Marti Webb, who succeeded Elaine Paige in the original London production of Evita, covered the song on her album Won't Change Places, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1981, and also included it in 1995 on the album, Music and Songs from Evita. AllMusic's Joe Francis complimented the recording.
One of the earliest covers was by The Carpenters who recorded it for their 1977 album, Passage, coupled with "On the Balcony of the Casa Rosada" which precedes it in the musical's score. The same year, Olivia Newton-John released the song as a single from her tenth studio album, Making a Good Thing Better. In 1978, the Shadows recorded an instrumental version that reached No. 5 on the UK singles chart. Also in 1978 Shirley Bassey recorded a slower version of the track for her album, The Magic Is You. She re-recorded it in 1993 for her album Sings the Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Simon Gage from the Daily Express praised the rendition, saying that Bassey "more than covers the ground" with it. Singer Tom Jones' interpretation of the song on his 1979 album, Rescue Me, received negative reviews, with biographer Lucy Ellis describing it as "the most ludicrous massacre on the LP". American disco group Festival released a version in 1979, a single off of an entire LP of disco covers of songs from Evita. Paloma San Basilio performed the song when she played the titular role on the Spanish adaptation of the musical in 1980. Nacha Guevara, who also starred in the musical in 1986, has performed the song live several times.
Singer Sinéad O'Connor recorded "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" on her album Am I Not Your Girl (1992). Her version received mixed response, with Joy Press from Spin who described the rendition as "a melodramatic, sweeping 'Je ne regrette rien'—style apologia. O’Connor had a calling. Obsessed with purity and truth, she pitched herself somewhere between Christ and the Virgin Mary, as an asexual visionary whose suffering was Inextricably Intertwined with the pain of Ireland and of the world." Released as a CD maxi single, the song reached number 31 in Belgium Flanders and number 44 in Netherlands. An easy listening cover version of the song by The Mike Flowers Pops reached number 30 in the UK singles charts in 1996. A punk rock version was recorded by alternative band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes in 1999 for their second studio album, Are a Drag. Angus Cargill, author of Hang the DJ: An alternative book of music lists was shocked by the complete revamp of the song as punk rock, saying that "there's a dark appeal in here, like the thought of taking a cattle prod to your grandma's".
It is covered by Lloyd Webber's younger brother and cellist Julian on the 2001 album, Lloyd Webber Plays Lloyd Webber. Another version was recorded in 2010 by TV series Glees actors Lea Michele and Chris Colfer, as the characters Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel respectively. It was sung as a duet with each singer taking a different stanza and performing before a different audience in a split-scene. Their solo versions were also in Glee: The Music, The Complete Season Two and reached number 67 in the United Kingdom and number 97 in US. Multinational quartet Il Divo recorded it on their 2011 album, Wicked Game, and performed it live on tours. The group's voice was considered suitable for musical numbers like "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", by Ben Walsh from The Independent. Nicole Scherzinger performed the song live at the Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Musical Years tribute show. Louis Virtel from The Backlot complimented her vocals, saying that the performance "has to be seen to be believed, as Scherzinger’s crystal-clear vocal soars like a glittery javelin".
BackgroundIn 1996, Madonna starred in the film Evita, playing the titular role. For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Eva and even wrote a letter to director Alan Parker, explaining how she would be perfect for the part. After securing the role, she underwent vocal training with coach Joan Lader since Evita required the actors to sing their own parts. Lader noted that the singer "had to use her voice in a way she's never used it before. Evita is real musical theater — its operatic, in a sense. Madonna developed an upper register that she didn't know she had." From the moment she was signed in the film, Madonna had expressed interest in recording a dance version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina". According to her publicist Liz Rosenberg, "since [Madonna] didn't write the music and lyrics, she wanted her signature on that song... I think on her mind, the best way to do it was go in the studio and work up a remix".
For this, in August 1996, while still mixing the film's soundtrack, Madonna hired remixers Pablo Flores and Javier Garza. According to Flores, the singer wanted something that "would be dance but faithful to the movie and to Argentina with a latin feel". Madonna herself said she wanted the remix to have a "Latin flavor and elements of Tango music". The mix was completed in two weeks at Miami and Los Angeles. Madonna had to re-record the vocals of the track in English and Spanish, while an Argentinian bandoneon was added to the song's intro. Named the "Miami Mix", it was sent to radio stations and DJs on late December 1996 and was officially released as the soundtrack's second single on 4 February 1997. Barney Kilpatrick, VP of promotion for Warner Bros. Records, said that "the only reason this mix is being done was to accommodate Top 40 radio [...] since we have a two-disc soundtrack, we're interested in selling albums, not singles". Warner Bros wanted to create buzz for the film with the song, not the single remix. There were also talks of releasing an Evita EP, containing remixes of "Buenos Aires", "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Another Suitcase in Another Hall", but it never materialized.
Recording and composition
Recording sessions for the film's songs and soundtrack began in September 1995, and took place at the CTS Studios in London with Madonna accompanied by co-actors Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. However, trouble arose as Madonna was not completely comfortable with laying down a "guide vocal" simultaneously with an 84 piece orchestra inside the studio. She was used to singing over a pre-recorded track and not have musicians listen to her. Also, unlike her previous soundtrack releases, she had little to no control over the project; "I'm used to writing my own songs and I go into a studio, choose the musicians and say what sounds good or doesn't [...] To work on 46 songs with everyone involved and not have a big say was a big adjustment", she recalled. An emergency meeting was held between Parker, Lloyd Webber and Madonna where it was decided that the singer would record her part in a more contemporary studio while the orchestration would take place somewhere else. She also had alternate days off from the recording.
According to the singer, she was very nervous during the first day of recording. She allegedly found herself "petrified" when it came to doing the song; "I had to sing 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber [...] I was a complete mess and was sobbing afterward. I thought I had done a terrible job", she recalled. The final version recorded had many similarities to the original version by Covington, although it had a much faster pace and was created as an orchestral pop to cater to the contemporary music scene. According to the sheet music published by Musicnotes.com, Madonna's version of the song is set in common time, with a slow groove tempo of 90 beats per minute. Madonna's vocals on the song span from G3 to C5. The song follows a basic sequence of C–[[F (musical note)|F]]–C when Madonna sings "It won't be easy, you'll think it strange", and changes to G7–C on the second verse.
Critical receptionUpon release, the song generally received positive feedback. J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Madonna: An Intimate Biography, wrote that "As Evita Perón [...] she is supple and strong, and doesn't sound at all out of place". Author Lucy O'Brien wrote in the book, Madonna: Like an Icon, that although Madonna's vocals lacked emotional complexity in the tune, she nevertheless created a "compelling" version, "right up to its grand orchestral finale". Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine commented: "Easily one of Madonna's greatest vocal performances to date, the singer's dramatic interpretation of Evita's unofficial theme song was both loyal and bizarrely autobiographical". Writing for the Los Angeles Times, David Gritten opined that "show-stoppers like 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina', which need to be belted out, sound comfortable for her". George Hatza from The Reading Eagle, said that "[Madonna] sings 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' in a beautiful, soaring, goosebump-inducing contralto". J. D. Considine, from The Baltimore Sun, said it was one of the "big songs" from the soundtrack. In her review of Evita, Janet Maslin from The New York Times commented that the track was "tinglingly sung". Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, wrote: "Madonna, to her credit, puts on quite a show. She sings. She tangos [...] She even belts out 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina' to prove she's just folks". Peter Keough, from the Boston Phoenix, praised Madonna's "stunning delivery" of the track. He wrote: "[Madonna] sings a softly lush soprano that captures Evita's quiet vulnerability. Her full-lipped, precise notes stride across the song's grandiose orchestrations. Webber's songs allow her all the room she needs to be many things; she succeeds at them all". A very positive review came from the Hartford Courants Greg Morago, who called the song "a calculated, theatrical triumph of shameless pandering and steely determination that parallels the pop diva's own rise to the top. Madonna makes this song her own; she was born to play the chignon-coiffed, diamond-studded Santa Evita". Greg Kot from the Chicago Tribune, opined that "her interpretation of the show-stopper 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina' doesn't try to outreach the many previous versions, but instead brings it back to earth with a low-key dignity".
The Huffington Posts Matthew Jacobs considered it as one of Madonna's most important songs, a "stand-in for the transition from Sexy Madonna to Adult Madonna". Similarly, Spins Annie Zaleski wrote that the "nuanced but proud" rendition of the song "marked the start of Madonna’s Serious Phase, one where she balanced youthful coquettishness with a more mature, introspective outlook". AllMusic's Jose F. Promis praised the "Miami Mix" version of the song; "['Don't Cry For Me Argentina'] was transformed into a passionate, flowing dance number", highlighting Madonna's "truly impassioned performance which infuriated musical purists but delighted her fans and public alike". In 2017, Billboard ranked the "Miami Mix" as the 95th greatest pop song of 1997; Andrew Unterberger wrote that the remix "is just as responsible for the song's chart success as Madonna's Celine Dion vocal ambitions, taking the song from the balcony to the dance floor and giving it back to the people". In 2018, the same magazine called the remix "a weirdly enjoyable menage à trois between Broadway, Latin and club music, with a pounding beat and lively tango that flourishes with Madonna’s earnest delivery". Similarly, Medium's Richard LaBeau deemed the remix "bizarre in theory but works terrifically in execution". The Guardians Jude Rogers wrote: "Sorry Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it's no 'Live to Tell'"; nonetheless, she praised the singer's vocal capacities. Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Chuck Arnold opined that "while credible, [Madonna's rendition] was not going to make anybody forget Patti Lupone". A negative review came from NMEs Alex Needham, who wrote; "by 1996 Madonna was fast turning into the pop equivalent of Sunset Boulevards Norma Desmond, croaking, 'I'm still big! It's just the Top 40 that got small!", and that "Don't Cry For Me Argentina' stank then, stinks now". Robert Christgau called it a "dismal track" and criticized its mixing.