A Comprehensive List of 10 Classic Latin Boleros

Professional Cuban Conga Drum Player, Havana, Cuba
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In Latin music, boleros are a form of slow-tempo songs first popularized toward the end of the 18th century in Spain and spread throughout the 19th century in Cuba. In Spain, the form evolved as a three-fourths time dance derived from contradanza and sevillana while in Cuba's is in two-fourths time that's become the "most popular lyric form of its time."

In the following list, discover the greatest boleros ever written — with links to download and listen to a popular version of the track. Due to their rich cultural history, though, many of the tracks listed below have a variety of different covers — in either the Spanish or Cuban style of these traditional boleros. 

01
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"Tristezas"

"Tristezas" ("Sorrows") is commonly considered the first bolero. Written in 1885 by Jose Pepe Sanchez, "Tristezas" is still performed to this day.

Sanchez never had any formal musical training and the only reason that some of his boleros are remembered is due to friends and relatives writing down the songs they heard.

02
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"Dos Gardenias"

A staple in every bolero singer's repertoire, "Dos Gardenias" was composed by Cuban Isolina Carrilo in the 1930s and regained fame when it appeared on the original "Buena Vista Social Club" album where it was sung by Ibrahim Ferrer.

Ferrer himself learned the song from the great Beny More when he played with him in the 1950s.

I really liked the version performed by Antonio Machin, one of the most recorded Cuban artists in history (right behind Celia Cruz). You can watch Antonio Machin perform this track on Youtube!

03
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"Veinte Años"

Another standard in the repertoire of any bolero singer is "Veinte Años," originally composed by Maria Teresa Vera from Guanajay, Cuba.

Vera was an outstanding guitarist, singer, and songwriter; she spent 27 years performing with Lorenzo Hierrezuelo in the duo Los Compadres.

The Buena Vista Social Club gave the song a broad audience when performed by Omara Portuondo, and you can check out their performance in this Youtube video.

04
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"Historia De Un Amor"

Hands-down, this is my personal favorite classic bolero. Composed by Panamanian Carlos Almaran and written to commemorate the death of the wife of Almaran's brother, the song has been performed by numerous artists and even served as part of a soundtrack of a 1956 movie by the same name.

Here's a version performed by the popular Mexican group Trio Los Panchos. Although Eydie Gorme often sang the song with the trio, this version with just the original band remains one of my personal favorites.

05
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"Solamente Una Vez"

One of the most popular boleros of all time, "Solamente Una Vez" was composed by Augustin Lara in 1941. The prolific Mexican composer from Veracruz wrote more than 800 compositions including "Maria Bonita", "Noche de Ronda" and the perennial classic "Granada."

The bolero was subsequently recorded in English as "You Belong To My Heart" and made famous by Bing Crosby and Xavier Cougat.

Here's a lovely version which is sung by Placido Domingo joined by the late Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras — who are collective also known as "The Three Tenors."

06
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"Lagrimas Negras"

Cuban composer Miguel Metamoros fused son and bolero and offered the public some of the most memorable songs the world has ever hummed. "Lagrimas Negras" is one of the most popular songs from his repertoire, second only to "Besame Mucho."

With so many artists covering this bolero, I picked one that was more traditional although the songs have been adapted to many styles and singers, both sad and slow and also with a little kick.

Watch Guaracheros de Oriente perform this track, or discover a different version by browsing the related section on this video.

07
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"Besame Mucho"

It's really amazing that possibly the most recorded song of our time, "Besame Mucho" was written in 1941 by a 15-year old girl from Mexico, Consuelo Velazquez.

Velazquez had never been kissed at the time she wrote this stunning bolero, which just goes to prove that romance is as much in the imagination as it is in the flesh (so to speak).

Also proving the popularity of this bolero is the number of recording artists that have taken their hand to the ballad. ​​You should definitely check out Mariachi Vargas, ​Thalia, or even ​The Beatles sing this beloved track!

08
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"Inolvidable"

"Involvidable" means "Unforgettable" but unlike the Nat King Cole song that was written by Irving Gorden in 1951, this famous Cuban bolero was composed by Julio Gutierrez in 1944.

Subsequently recorded by many artists, "Inolvidable" was a big hit when sung by Tito Rodriguez on "From Tito Rodriguez With Love" in 1963, selling over 1.5 million copies. Rodriguez was one of the original Mambo Kings and for years vied with Tito Puente for first place in the hearts of mambo fans everywhere.

Here's a modernized version of the classic sung by the popular purveyor of romantic music,​ Luis Miguel.

09
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"Guantanamera"

"Guantanamera" is probably the one Cuban bolero that even those people not addicted to Latin music have heard. Recorded by Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and a host of others, Trini Lopez brought the song to a whole new generation.

Composed by Joseito Fernandez (Jose Fernandez Diaz) in 1929, "Guantanamera" means a peasant woman from Cuba's Guantanamo province; the original lyrics were also written by Joseito Fernandez about a woman he loved and who left him.

But these are not the lyrics that we're familiar with; over time the original lyrics were replaced with the first stanza of a poem written by Cuban hero Jose Marti from his "Versos Sencillos."

10
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"Somos Novios"

If you know the song "It's Impossible" then you know the track "Somos Novios, Composed by Mexican bolero icon Armando Manzanero.

This song became popular globally when Perry Como recorded "It's Impossible" in 1971. This version about newlyweds is a recent duet by pop singer Christina Aguilera and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.