Manolo Escobar, the Andalusian singer who gained popularity playing in romantic comedies in the 1960s and 1970s but catapulted to international fame with his Y Viva España sing-along favorite, died Thursday from cancer. He was 82.
He became an important entertainment symbol during the final years of the Franco dictatorship, when Spain was opening its doors to foreign tourists. With his signature bushy sideburns and bell-bottom pants, Escobar was a favorite leading man in a string of musical comedies, starring opposite Laura Valenzuela in Españoles en Paris (1971) and Concha Velasco en En un lugar de La Manga (1970). But it was his 1973 recording of Y Viva España, a rousing number that is still sung in pubs and at birthday parties, which brought him the most fame.