Karina was born Maribel Llaudes Santiago on December 4, 1945 in the Andalusian town of Jaén. She made her recording debut as Maribel Llaudes in 1961 with two unsuccessful covers of songs chosen from that year's Festival De La Canción De Benidorm. When the newly-christened Karina released her first 4-song EP on the Hispavox label in 1963, Spain was blessed with a new teenaged superstar--unquestionably the queen of Spanish Ye-Yé, and much-idolized for her blond hair and baby-faced good looks. Like French Ye-Yé favorite, Sylvie Vartan, Karina's early EPs (1963-1966) contained mostly lightweight covers- songs like John Barry's "Goldfinger," Serge Gainsbourg's "Oh Oh Sheriff," and Bacharach-David's "Always Something There To Remind Me."It was Karina's version of an Alberto Cortez song called "Me Lo Dijo Pérez"that took home the 1st prize at the Festival De La Canción De Mallorca in1965. Not much of a surprise considering the lyrics of "Me Lo Dijo Pérez"read like a tourism ad for the town of Palma De Mallorca (the joys of splashing in the ocean / the never-ending parties in wonderful Mallorca). At the height of Karina's fame, she couldn't even go out shopping in Spain for fear of being mobbed by fans, and had to resort to traveling to London to buy her clothes. By the latter half of the sixties Karina no longer relied on cover versions for hits and worked with Spanish songwriters on chart-toppers like "El Baúl De Los Recuerdos" (1969), and "Colores" (1970). Karina's participation in the 1970 Spanish TV special Pasaporte A Dublín, a song contest that served as a warm-up to the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest, won her second place with the beautiful ballad, "En Un Mundo Nuevo."Karina married the composer of ""En Un Mundo Nuevo"- a songwriter named Tony Luz who played guitar in a popular rock'n roll band called Los Pekinekes. Karina went through husbands like Liz Taylor, and rumor has it that she was married a total of seven times. After her quick split with Tony Luz, she took off to Bali and then returned to her hometown of Jaén soon after. Her last recording for Spanish label Hispavox was in 1977, but in the early eighties she made a minor comeback with some hit releases in Mexico. Karina recently made an appearance on the 2003 Spanish TV series Vivo Cantando where she competed against a line-up of contemporary Spanish pop stars. Welcomed back by a wildly enthusiastic audience, Karina broke down in tears after receiving the most national phone-in votes when she sang two of her biggest hits- "Romeo Y Julieta" and "En Un Mundo Nuevo." Karina credits her faithful following among gay men for putting her back in the spotlight.
In an attempt to capitalize on Karina's success, record companies went on the prowl for girl singers who could emulate the style of Spain's most popular Ye-Yé girl. Second in line to Karina's label Hispavox was Zafiro, a prominent record company that also originated in Spain. Zafiro touted a girl named Rosalía, who had actually began her recording career in 1962- before Karina had become a huge star. Her 1963 release "La Hora" won first prize at the Festival De Canción De Benidorm, but it was 1965's "Flamenco" that made Rosalía a star in her own right. Previously a hit for the group Los Brincos, "Flamenco" was an early instance of adding an unmistakable Spanish flavor to the basic Ye-Yé format. Her guitar-driven '69 version of the Italian San Remo Festival hit "La Pioggia," (sung by Gigliola Cinquetti; also covered in French by France Gall) retitled "La lluvia"is also worth mentioning. The competition between Rosalía and Karina was fierce- "Karina has nothing to teach me," proclaimed Rosalía in 1969.
Top Photo Star: Karina