Gracias a la vida – Step by step (Part 2) – Learning Spanish language with “the sound of music”.

(Thanks to Life)

Gracias a la vida, Thanks to Life, is a powerful and enduring song, one of the most covered songs in Latin American history. It was composed by the legendary Chilean songwriter Violeta Parra (4.10.1917 – 5.02.1967), a pioneer of a Latin American movement known as La Nueva Canción, The New Song. In addition, her contribution to Latin American art and particularly to folklore has been invaluable.

© Dulce vecina de la verde selva - Violeta Parra -Mix Technique -  Claudia Martínez. 2011 - http://www.claudiamartinez

Dulce vecina de la verde selva – Violeta Parra – Mix media. Courtesy of the artist Claudia Martínez © Claudia Martínez. 2011. For a link to the blog of this artist, please click here.

The song Gracias a la vida became a theme tune for a distinct period of my life. A time in which, I reunited with my family after a long absence, a moment of great joy. Have you ever experienced a song that captures exactly the mood and a moment of a time in your life?

It’s perhaps the unique combination of music and lyrics, the distinctive voice of the singer, all meeting and combining with your personal circumstances to create the perfect soundtrack to one’s life. Somehow it becomes a private relationship between the words, the melody and you. Has this happened to you?

Gracias a la vida, a song or an anthem?

Why does a melody, accompanied by the right words, become a hymn for many? Gracias a la vida is one of the most covered songs in Latin American history – each version with its own unique interpretation.Violeta Parra reinforced the importance of the sound and words and without idealising life, she positioned herself and her singing with the voice of her people.  Here are two verses from the lyric:

Gracias a la vida, que me ha dado tanto:
me ha dado el sonido y el abecedario;
con él las palabras que pienso y declaro
madre, amigo, hermano, y luz alumbrando
la ruta del alma del que estoy amando.

Thanks to life, that has given me so much:
it has given me sound, and the alphabet
and with these the words that I think and declare:
mother, friend, brother, and light illuminating
the path of the soul of the one I love. [1]

… …

Gracias a la vida, que me ha dado tanto:
me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto,
así yo distingo dicha de quebranto,
los dos materiales que forman mi canto,
y el canto de ustedes, que es el mismo canto
y el canto de todos, que es mi propio canto.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much:
That has given me laughter and tears,
this way I distinguish joy from pain
the two materials that made my song,
and your song, which is the same song
and the song of everyone, which is my own song. [2]

Many performers have interpreted this anthem  via diverse musical genres: from Flamenco to Salsa and various remixes; and it has also been translated into many languages.

Violeta Parra - Paint technique mix - Claudia Martínez - 1.00 x 1.00 m.

“Violeta” – Mixed media – 1.00 x 1.00 mt. Courtesy of the artist Claudia Martínez © Claudia Martínez. 2011. For a link to the blog of this artist, please click here.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

I would reiterate that frequent exposure to Spanish is essential in order to become familiar with its sounds and expressions. Students should be eager to integrate Spanish into their everyday life when starting to learn the Spanish language to achieve effective learning. Listening to Spanish lyrics from native Spanish speakers was suggested as one of the many options Spanish language students have today (See: Step by step. Part 1, 2 May 2014).

Listening, reading the lyrics, practising the phonetics and even singing along with them will help to improve pronunciation. This is an entertaining way of learning by repetition. For those who enjoy listening to different versions of the same song, here are some examples that may appeal to you:

The following link takes you to a version, with subtitles, sung by Mercedes Sosa, an Argentinean singer, perhaps one of the most heard interpretations of this song: click here.

American singer Joan Baez’ version begins with a brief introduction. She starts singing at 2.14: click here.

On 27 February 2010, there was a terrible earthquake in Chile. It is considered one of the strongest registered in history. The energy released was equivalent to 100,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. Despite Violeta Parra no longer being with us, her voice was there to sing and help the victims. A group of singers united their voices: Beto Cuevas (Chilian), Laura Pausini (Italian), Ferh Olvera (Mexican), Shakira (Colombian), Juanes (Colombian), Miguel Bosse (Panama/Colombia) producing a new version of Gracias a la vida. The single was named: Voces unidas por Chile. To hear this version please: click here.

Cover of the single Gracias a la vida, created by United Voices for Chile. An initiative to support the earthquake’s victims originated by Beto Cuevas and produced by Humberto Gatica.

Gracias a la vida, and to Violeta Parra, who gave so much and received too little recognition for her work whilst she was alive. So, before we leave, I would like to suggest that you listen to the original track sung by Violeta Parra: click here.

The song Gracias a la vida provides a great opportunity to discover which of the many versions is your particular favourite. Surf on YouTube and try to find the four best versions for you. Have you found any other interesting versions  that you would you like to share with us? Please add your comments below.

Violeta se fue a los cielos, Violeta Went to Heaven: if there is a heaven, she must be there now. However, Violeta Went to Heaven (2011) is the name of a film that portrays her life, based on a biography written by her son Ángel Parra, who is also a singer/songwriter. The film was directed by Andrés Wood. Violeta Parra is wonderfully portrayed by Chilean actress Francisca Gavilán. This film gives us an insight into the passionate, charming, somehow naive and eccentric life of a great contributor of Latin American folklore. To view the trailer in Spanish with subtitles: click here, or see it below:

Trailer of Violeta Went to Heaven

To see the film in full (only available in Spanish): click here 

[1] Free translation.

[2]Free translation.

This is a follow up article Step by step – Learning Spanish language with “the sound of music” (Part 1), published 2 May 2014.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About hoxton spanish tutor info

Hi, my name is Adrian Sanchez. I am passionate about words and languages, particularly Spanish, the language I learned at my mother’s knee. I am curious about how languages change and evolve. I am a qualified Spanish Teacher (CLTA) and a journalist. I have taught in literacy campaigns in Latin America and given Spanish tuition in Spain and in the UK. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the Spanish language; and particularly on what I have learned from my students, who in many ways have become my teachers throughout the years. Spanish is a vast and beautiful language and I would like you to accompany me on a journey of discoveries. You can visit my blog here: Email: Thank you!

21 responses to “Gracias a la vida – Step by step (Part 2) – Learning Spanish language with “the sound of music”.”

  1. Kevin Doble says :

    Me gusta mucho la versión de Luz Casal:

    Liked by 2 people

  2. hector says :

    Concierto colectivo a salvador Allende

    Ana Belén, en el escenario junto a la cantautora catalana María del Mar Bonet y varias familiares (hija, nieta y bisnieta) de la polifacética artista chilena Violeta Parra (San Carlos de Itihue, 4 de octubre de 1917 – Santiago, 5 de febrero de 1967).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Claudia Martínez says :

    Gracias Adrian!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • marita says :

      Hola Claudia:

      Me enteré que estás preparando una nueva exposición de tus pinturas. Es en el Luna Park? Por favor, ¿me podrías pasar los datos? Es posible que esté en Buenos Aires para esa fecha y me gustaría ver tu muestra.

      ¡Gracias y mucha suerte!


      Liked by 1 person

      • hoxton spanish tutor info says :

        Hola Marita.

        Creo que la exposición de la artista Claudia Martínez comienza el 29 de noviembre de 2014, en una de las salas del Luna Park (en Buenos Aires, Argentina). Este es su blog:

        Le escribiré a Claudia directamente para que lo anunciemos aquí en el blog también.

        Un abrazo grande.



      • Claudia Martínez says :

        Hola Marita:
        Si, estoy preparando una muestra conjunta con algunos colegas. Muchas gracias por tu interés, me encantaría que estuvieras por allí. Te paso información y quedo a tu disposición. ¡Un saludo!
        Desde el 28 de noviembre haste 11 de diciembre de 2014
        Stadium Luna Park / Sala Blue
        INAUGURACION: Viernes 28 de noviembre / 19hs
        Horarios: LU-VI de 12 a 20hs / SAB de 11 a 20 hs.
        Dirección: Bouchard 475, Capital federal.
        ¡Gracias Adrian por tu interés y difusión!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. luciam1701 says :

    Gracias Adrián! muy bueno como siempre…Mi versión favorita, la de Mercedes Sosa

    Liked by 3 people

  5. luciam1701 says :

    Una canción realmente universal, les paso una versión de un duo de Corea del Sur: Davichi (Lee Haeri(이해리) and Kang Minkyung(강민경) cantada en español y subtitulada en español e Inglés, impresionante!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Magaly says :

    Tania Libertad, cantante peruana. Aquí su interpretación de Gracias a la Vida.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ana says :

    Hi, here is a version from Brazil, the great singer Elis Regina, interpreting this song, which was recorded in 1976 in the LP Falso Brilhante.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Claudia Martínez says :

    Esta es la versión original por si no la han escuchado, es la voz de Violeta.

    Un saludo.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. cindy knoke says :

    Oh my gosh this is so good. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • hoxton spanish tutor info says :

      Thank you Cindy, Hector, Claudia, Kevin, Marita, Lucía, and Tony for helping me with this article, or stopping by, and contributing with your favourite version of the song “Thanks to life”.

      …and again “Gracias a la vida y gracias a Violeta Parra” for bringing us all together!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. teagan geneviene says :

    This was fascinating! I want to come back and really study this post (and part 1). Maybe a treat for myself after National Novel Writing month is done. Thanks so much for this. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Writing to Freedom says :

    Hi Adrian, I hadn’t heard this song before, but now I’m hooked. 🙂 A great mix of versions here with the Mercedes Sosa version being my favorite and the Davichi a close second. Thanks for sharing this song and it’s beautiful lyrics. Maybe it will help revive my dormant Spanish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hoxton spanish tutor info says :

      Hi Brad,

      I m glad you enjoy the song. It is an inspirational song for me.

      Teaching a language in this context, with meaningful songs like this one, can be very motivational. I hope you continue finding this blog helpful with your Spanish.


      Liked by 1 person

  12. Lucas Mac Guire says :

    Adrián encontré este video que tiene una muy buena biografía de Violeta Parra, del Canal Encuentro:


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. online - 09/08/2015

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: