Julio Iglesias: near-death experience made him a singer

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Story highlights

  • 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

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.

Real deal

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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.

    Accident

    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'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."