Before “Despacito,” the “Macarena” dance craze proved the viability of a Spanish crossover hit and ruled the Hot 100 for 14 weeks.
IT ONLY TOOK FOUR YEARS, THREE COUNTRIES, two Spaniards and a Miami DJ team, but on Aug. 3, 1996, Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” topped the Billboard Hot 100, wrapping an improbable journey for a song whose origin dates to a 1992 party in Venezuela.
There, Los Del Rio – the duo of Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruíz Perdigones from Seville, Spain – was inspired by a woman named Madalena, which led Romero to craft the melody that would become “Macarena” during a 1993 studio session.
The track arrived on U.S. shores through Miami, after then-WPOW (Power 96) DJ Jammin Johnny Caride heard it at a local nightclub. Although his station avoided playing exclusively-Spanish songs, Caride persuaded his bosses to make an exception. The program director demanded an English version, so Caride recruited two partners to rework the lyrics while retaining the original hook. (Hear Caride share the entire story in the latest Billboard Chart Beat Podcast.)
The retooled “Macarena,” dubbed the Bayside Boys mix, crept to No. 45 on the Hot 100 in late 1995, but once New York’s WKTU added the song, it exploded, re-entering the chart in May 1996 and finally reaching No. 1 in its 33rd week on the tally – still the longest rise to the top to date.
“Macarena” was also powered by its signature dance that swept the nation, including the 1996 Democratic National Convention, with C-SPAN airing a four-minute clip of delegates dancing on the convention floor.