Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Julio Iglesias: near-death experience made him a singer

By Monita Rajpal, CNN
updated 4:42 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
  • Heart throb Julio Iglesias tells how his life was changed be a car crash
  • Former footballer was paralyzed from the chest down by a near-fatal car crash in his teens
  • He says his life was changed when a nurse gave him a guitar as he convalesced
  • He has since produced 80 albums and sold over 300 million records sold worldwide

(CNN) -- Before the interview for Talk Asia, all I knew about Julio Iglesias was that he sings love songs -- and that the ladies seem to love him.

What I didn't know, was this is a man who was born to be famous and not even a life-threatening injury from a car accident would stop him.

His story is one made for the silver screen. It has all the elements that tug at your heart strings: family drama, near-death experience, triumph over adversity, ultimate success, and a plot that just keeps on going.

Iglesias' renowned voice has made him a superstar worldwide but his first foray into the spotlight wasn't through his voice, it was his feet.

The football pitch was where he got his first taste of what it feels like to be adored by the crowds.

Iglesias on 'making love' to his audience
Julio Iglesias' favorite duets

Real deal

From a young age, Iglesias showed his fancy footwork in Real Madrid's junior league. Rising through the ranks, he would eventually become goalkeeper for Real's reserve team.

Iglesias humbly admits he was never a real football talent but he had the discipline which would see him play with the biggest names of that generation.

While his dream to play for the Primera Division would never be realized, just being in close proximity to the players and playing in the same stadium was enough to feel the call of something big.

"You feel 50,000 people in the stadium and you go on the grass and the magic starts. You feel like are something else. All the dreams that you have for years come back in a reality and you are in front of so many people playing a match and you win, you lose. It's passion, it's courage," he said.


Perhaps it's that courage that saw him through one of the most challenging times of his life. When he was 19, a drive home after a party with two friends ended in tragedy.

While taking a curve in the road, the car he was driving crashed, leaving him clinging on to life. What would come would crush his dreams of ever playing football again. The crash compressed a nerve in his spine leaving him paralyzed from the chest down; a paralysis that would see him bed-ridden for two years.

"All I felt at that time was 'Why? Why has this happened to me?'

I was not a good singer, I didn't even know how to write a song ... but I realized what an incredible opportunity I had.
Julio Iglesias

"I'm someone who believes there's a reason for everything. Sometimes that belief is challenged but more often than not, I believe events take place that force you to think, feel, and act in ways you may never have before. I believe people come into your life for a reason."

For Iglesias, that belief was crystallized in that devastating moment, and those challenging two years changed his life.

What he did not realize at the time was that it would all change for the better.

Musical discovery

A nurse who was treating him brought Julio a guitar. The gesture was two-fold: a distraction from the depression of what kind of a life would lie ahead, and a means to exercise the dexterity and strength in his fingers and hands.

He discovered a passion for music that he didn't know he had. And perhaps more than anything, a renewed purpose in life.

"I started to move my toes. I started to get up, I started to walk albeit painfully, and I started to realize that I could survive ... I started to think that I could be alive again ... So from that day I took chances. I disciplined my life. Without discipline I would not be here. I would not be talking to you, I would not be a singer, and I would be nothing. Discipline woke up my life again."

The rest as they say is history.

Devoted following

Eighty albums released in 14 languages, over 300 million records sold worldwide, and a devoted following of women who hear that something in his voice that knows no boundaries of language. Despite claiming to be "not that great" of a singer, Iglesias' ability to connect to a global audience has served him well. He says it's his passion for music and for people.

Perhaps, though, what they see is his vulnerability, a quality he himself says "is the most attractive thing that an artist can have."

"Since that time I understood that music, and the passion for music, was my life ... I was not a good singer, I didn't even know how to write a song ... but I realized what an incredible opportunity I had. The life came back to my eyes and I became a singer."

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
Jeremy Lin on whether it's more difficult to make it as an Asian-American player in the NBA.
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 13, 2013
Monita Rajpal speaks with the British fashion accessory designer about her business which stretches across the globe.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
Director Baz Luhrmann on dealing with critics and how his work is a labor of love.
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
Roger Federer explains why confidence is crucial when it comes to mastering the tennis court.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Fri August 30, 2013
British pop star Ellie Goulding talks about her international success and her first time performing in Singapore.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Wed October 16, 2013
Known for his impressions of different accents, Russell Peters talks about how his time in Hong Kong inspired him.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Hollywood actor and producer Vin Diesel talks to CNN's Monita Rajpal about his career and success.
updated 5:31 AM EST, Mon November 25, 2013
CNN's Monita Rajpal meets designer and engineer Cecil Balmond and finds out what inspired his career.