Spain's best kept secret
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. Nearly 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.