Neither his daughter, nor an ex-wife: The story behind ‘And what is he like?’, by José Luis Perales, is inspired by Isabel Preysler

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“And what is he like? Where did he fall in love with you? Where is he from? What does he spend his free time doing? Ask him, why has he stolen a piece of my life? He is a thief, who has stolen from me all”this is how the chorus of one of the José Luis Perales’ best-known songs; the one that was, according to many, what catapulted him to fame in the early 80s.

However, the story behind this composition is not what we have been believing for years. The myth built around ¿And what is he like? He says that the man from Cuenca dedicated the song to his daughter María, when that is not the case. The eldest of his two children was barely three years old when the song was published. Others have said that she is going to an ex-wife, but that is not possible either. Perales has been happily married since 1997 to Manuela Vargas.

As he has said in several interviews over the years, This hit was commissioned by another well-known Spanish singer. It was Julio Iglesias who asked him to write a song inspired by Isabel Preysler. “Julio had just separated and his ex-wife, Isabel, was marrying the Marquis of Griñón,” explained the singer-songwriter.

“It’s really a commissioned song…, that song was written for Julio Iglesias, and later, I didn’t give it to him. I didn’t give it to him because the people in my company believed that I should sing it, that it was a great song, that it would be a great success as it was, but it doesn’t really have any more history. Many people believe that I made it for a daughter, but it’s impossible, because when I made that song my daughter María was three years old… “This is a song for adults and this case was Julio Iglesias, but after that nothing, I didn’t give it to him.”declared to Free Diary of the Dominican Republic in 2017.

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Composed to be sung by the author of hey, finally the record company decided that José Luis himself would keep it. “You’re not going to sing this, right?” His wife asked him on his day, to which he replied “no, woman, Julio sings it.” Finally, “the people at the company said that they didn’t give it to anyone, that I sang it,” he reiterated in a report with The sixth in 2021.

José Luis Perales, a tailor of custom songs

¿And what is he like? It is not the only song that José Luis Perales has created custom for another artist. Among the compositions that bear his signature are also sailor of lightsIsabel Pantoja’s hit from 1985. The tonadillera even exclaimed with great gratitude how delighted she was with the song: “Oh, but how can you get into me, if that’s what I would say and I don’t know how to write it!”

He himself recognizes that it is “like a tailor” capable of writing songs that “reveal a lot of the character” for which it is composed. Likewise, it is the thinking head behind Because you are leaving, by Jeanette. She composed the hit in 1976 and, a couple of years ago, he remembered that “to the verse ‘today the sun shines in my window, a heart…’, he put on Jeanette’s little voice and thought: ‘I would sing this one very well.'” So it was.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.