Out of all the artists to have ever graced the UK charts, few have managed to have such an impact on us and receive so much love from the audience as ABBA did – and still do. At some points, we are close to even forgetting they’re actually Swedish, just like how we tend to forget the Princess of Pop, Kylie Minogue, is actually an Aussie.
There are dozens of ABBA songs that hold a special place in our hearts, with one of them being the first single from their “Voulez-Vous” album, “Chiquitita”, which was originally released in January of 1979 and became a small hit in an era in which disco music was all the rage (not that ABBA didn’t try their hand at disco).
“Chiquitita, tell me what’s wrong … “
“Chiquitita” is a Spanish word that is used as a term of endearment for a woman and it means “little one”. Initially, “If It Wasn’t for the Nights” was prepared to be the first single off of the album “Voulez-Vous” (1979), but after the band came up with “Chiquitita” in December of 1978, plans for that single were scrapped and never happened.
The always-charismatic Agnetha Fältskog sang the lead vocals on “Chiquitita”, while the aforementioned song had the lead shared between Agnetha and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, now Princess Anni-Frid Synni of Reuss, Countess of Plauen. But she was always cool, so we bet she still checks things out on Youngchoppers.
Several demos were recorded for the song, under the working titles of “Kålsupare”, “3 Wise Guys”, “Chiquitita Angelina” and “In the Arms of Rosalita”, until it was decided to be named “Chiquitita”. ABBA would also record a Spanish version of the song which would later appear as a bonus track for the “Voulez-Vous” album.
The Spanish version was also featured later on the “Gracias Por La Música” (1980) and “Oro: Grandes Éxitos” (1992) compilation albums, which were made out of only Spanish versions of their songs. They were a huge success in countries like Argentina, Mexico, and Spain.
“Let me hear you sing once more”
The debut for the song took part at the Music for UNICEF Concert, on January 9, 1979, in New York. The goal was to raise money for the world hunger programs of UNICEF and to mark the start of what was named the “International Year of the Child”. The next day the concert was broadcast internationally.
The concert was the idea of the Bee Gees managers, and it was meant to be an annual gala. Plans for follow-up concerts were canceled after the event only managed to raise one million dollars ($3,564,486 in today’s money), a rather underwhelming sum, especially considering the acts that performed that night.
Aside from ABBA, the top pop artists of the day performed, including Earth, Wind & Fire, the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Rita Coolidge, and Kris Kristofferson. Elton John was also scheduled to make an appearance that didn’t materialize.
All artists donated their performance royalties and one from one of their songs to UNICEF, although some only did so for just a period of time. ABBA donated 50% of their profits to UNICEF initially, but in 2014 they agreed to wave 100% of the song’s royalties to UNICEF. By 2003, “Too Much Heaven” by the Bee Gees raised 7 million dollars for UNICEF.
While the exact numbers from “Chiquitita” aren’t known, UNICEF surely got a nice profit, as the song reached number 1 in Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and the top 3 in Sweden, Germany, and the UK. It also hit the top 10 in Argentina, Austria, Australia, and Norway.
“Chiquitita” also reached number 19 in Japan and 29 in the US, selling millions of copies internationally, becoming their biggest hit from the “Voulez-Vous” album. Today, the song is ABBA’s 9th best-selling in the UK. Internationally, it’s their fifth most-watched video on YouTube, and their 9th most streamed song on Spotify.
“Chiquitita, dime porque …”
In 2018, Cher covered the song for her “Dancing Queen” album, and in early May released a Spanish version of the song across all platforms where you can buy or stream music. All proceeds from this song will go to UNICEF, helping children who have been affected by the current coronavirus pandemic.
This is Cher’s first single of the 2020s, and her first since “One of Us”, another ABBA cover, in 2018, which was released to promote her then-new album of ABBA covers previously mentioned. Cher spoke about how she struggled with singing in Spanish, especially when it came to rolling her Rs.
The digital single is made out of the Spanish version of the song and the English one, previously released in 2018. So, if you want to help a good cause, stream the song, and help kids from the UK and the world to have a better life, especially during these trying times.