Her father owned a bar and her mother worked making clothes. She learned to dance with María Pantoja and to understand Flamenco with Sebastián Nuñez. Her debut at 16 years of age was with Custodia Romero's company in the Villamarta Theatre of Jerez de la Frontera. Shortly after leaving Jerez for Madrid, she rose to fame and soon signed the highest contract of the time (6 million pesetas in the 1950s) which launched her career touring throughout Latin America.
In 1958, she married Antonio González el Pescaílla, a gypsy guitarist from Barcelona. She had three children: singer and actress Lolita Flores; rock musician, singer and actor Antonio Flores; and singer and actress Rosario Flores. Lola Flores was not a gypsy herself, referring to herself as "paya" or non-gypsy Spanish. Nevertheless, she is considered an icon of this ethnicity in Spain, particularly since she married into a gypsy family.
"La Faraona" died of breast cancer in 1995, aged 72, and was buried in the Cementerio de la Almudena in Madrid. Shortly after her death, her distraught 33-year-old son, Antonio Flores, committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates and was buried beside her.
In 2007, the biopic Lola, la película was made. The movie describes her early life, starting in 1931 until 1958.
Lola Flores, a native of Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) was an icon of traditional Andalusian folklore, recognized throughout Spain as well as internationally. She became a famous dancer and singer of Andalusian folklore at a very young age, performing flamenco, copla, and chotis and appearing in films from 1939 to 1987.
Her father owned a bar and her mother was dressmaker. She learned to dance with María Pantoja and to understand Flamenco culture with Sebastián Nuñez. Her debut at 16 years of age was with Custodia Romero's company in the Villamarta Theatre of Jerez de la Frontera. After several spectacles she went to Madrid.
Shortly after leaving Jerez for Madrid, she rose to fame and soon signed the biggest contract of the time (6 million pesetas in the 1950s) which launched her career touring throughout Latin America.
In 1943, with the protection of business owner Adolfo Arenaza, Lola set out a performance named Zambra with Manolo Caracol, which with small variations would be kept several years with great success. Zambra was decisive for Lola Flores's career, a spectacle very organized in all his elements for the one that they chose to León Quintero and Quiroga and that had her culminating number in “La niña de fuego” and of that there went out also La zarzamora, one of the songs most associated with Lola.
The collaboration of the couple, which supported each other in both their private and professional life, created a relationship more than professional that was reflected on the stage and was very successful. This eventually lead them to become proper business owners. They produced together also two movies, Embrujo (1947) and La niña de venta (1951). In 1951, there were a sentimental separation of the couple and they stopped working together to work together.
In 1951 the Spanish film producer Suevia films wanted to consolidate a star-system of the Spanish cinema, which had his expansion towards America. The owner, Cesario González decided at the end of 1951 to contract Lola Flores. He signed an agreement with Lola Flores for two years and 5 films for an amount of six million pesetas. That contract included cinema, TV, theatre and also a tour along throughout America.
The agreement was signed in Bar Chicote, in Madrid with the cameras of NO-DO, which was a great advertising event. With this agreement, Lola Flores started filming news films like “La niña de la venta”, with Ramón Torrado in 1951 and “¡Ay pena, penita, pena!” with Miguel Morayta in 1953. Lola also appeared in advertisings campaigns as part of the agreement.
On April 12, 1952, Lola Flores went to Mexico with her family, where she obtained a great reception. From Mexico, she went to Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Ecuador, Buenos Aires and New York. In that time, The New York Times published a review of the tour commenting: “Lola Flores, a Spanish artist, she neither sings, and does not even dance, but you can´t miss her”.
On October 27, 1958, she married Antonio González el Pescaílla (1925-1999), a gypsy guitarist from Barcelona. She had three children: singer Lolita Flores (Dolores González Flores) (1958) Antonio Flores (Antonio Gónzález Flores) (1961-1995); and Rosario Flores (Rosario González Flores) (1963), they were one of the most famous family of artists in Spain. Moreover Lola Flores was the sister of Carmen Flores (1936), and her nephew was the footballer and coach Quique Sánchez Flores (1965). Lola is the grandmother of the actress Elena Furiase and Guillermo Furiase (Lolita´s children), the actress Alba Flores (Antonio´s daughter) and Lola Orellana and Pedro Antonio Lazaga (Rosario´s children). She was the godmother of Carmen Morales, daughter of the famous singer and actress Rocio Dúrcal.
In March 1987, The District Attorney's office presented a complaint against the artist and her husband for not having presented the declarations of the income tax of the natural persons between the years 1982 and 1985, they had to pay a bail of 145 million pesetas (871.561 €). In 1989, The Madrid provincial court decreed her absolution for a legal vacuum motivated by a judgment of the Constitutional Court that had annulled partially the Law of the tax.
Finally, Lola Flores was condemned by the Supreme Court in 1991, as the authoress of 4 crimes against the Inland Revenue. She was sentenced to two different punishments of a month and a day and two others of seven months in prison, but she would never serve the sentences. The process had an important social transcendence, since she was a very famous person and was chosen by the Inland Revenue as an example of their battle against tax fraud.
Lola Flores has recorded a lot of different albums that had brought her to glory. We can highlight: Ay Lola, España mía, Juerga flamenca, Mi mundial 82 (1982) La inimitable Lola (1990) and a lot more which have her most popular songs. The songs which are most remembered today are: "A tu vera", "Torbellino de colores", "Ay pena penita pena" and "La Zarzamora". The last track was the one which was played in her funeral, since it was requested by her. Even if she was not technically perfect as a singer, she had an outstanding character and an incredibly expressivity. After a performance at Madison Square Garden (New York), a journalist wrote the following critic: “She doesn't sing or dance, but don't miss her”. There are other important songs with humorous details such as “¿Quién tiró la bomba?” or “Cómo me las maravillaría yo”.
- ¡Olé! Lola Flores (1958)
- Juerga Flamenca (1961)
- La Zarzamora (1962)
- Al caer el sol (1965)
- Una señora estupenda (1968)
- Lola de España (1973)
- Casa Flora (1973)
- Diferente Lola (1980)
- Mi mundial 82 (1982)
- La inimitable Lola (1990)
A lot of albums had been dedicated to her by her children and friends in order to honour her.
Lola Flores took part in 38 films, making her début in 1939 as an actress with the film “Martingala” by Fernando Mignoni. One of the most remarkable films is a classic from the 40s: “Embrujo” (1947), Carlos Serrano de Osma), a musical drama where she accompanies Manolo Caracol, who was her boyfriend in those days.
In 1951 she signed a contract with Cesáreo González, and thanks to this partnership she enrolled (starred in) films such as “La niña de la venta”, with Ramón Torrado, (1951) and “¡Ay pena, penita, pena!”, with Miguel Morayta, (1953).
Another of her distinguished films from the 50s is “Morena Clara” (1954, Luis Lucia) which was an adaptation of the popular film from 1934, and in company of Fernando Fernán Gómez, “El duende de Jerez” (1953) y “María de la O” (1958), she also starred in her first film with Antonio González "El Pescaílla". Other important films in which this artist took part where ,(español) según la biografía "El volcán y la brisa", “La hermana Alegría” in 1954, y “El balcón de la luna” in 1962, La hermana San Sulpicio (1962), a new version different from the film in which Imperio Argentina had been involved and the mexican dramas: “La faraona” (1955) y “Sueños de oro” (1958).
“Casa Flora” (1972, Ramón Fernández) y “Una señora estupenda” (1972, Julio Coll) are two of the most acceptable films of the period known as predestape in the Spanish comedian film industry; after this period she was the protagonist of the comedy “Juana la loca... de vez en cuando” (1983), where she would represent Isabel la católica (Isabella I of Castile), a very important Queen during the Spanish Inquisition, “Truhanes” (1983, Miguel Hermoso). Her last paper in the cinema industry was in 1992 with “Sevillanas”, whose director was Carlos Saura. In this film, she shared experiences with the most remarkable icons of Flamenco, such as Camarón de la Isla or Rocío Jurado. Her friendship with Carmen Sevilla and Paquita Rico, who were folkloric artists and actresses is very well-known. She took part in different musical tours around South America. She also acted in a film with them: “El balcón de la luna” (1962, Luis Saslavsky).
As well as the Spanish actresses Sara Montiel, Carmen Sevilla and Amparo Rivelles she played different roles in films in Mexico, when this country was living the Golden era of cinema. Lola worked with important celebrities such as Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Antonio Badú, Luis Aguilar "El Gallo Giro" and Miguel Aceves Mejía. Lola became friends with the well-known actor Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", with Lola Beltrán "La Grande", with the Mexican divas Silvia Pinal and "la doña" María Félix or Dolores del Río.
Lola participated in different TV programmes throughout her life. Sometimes she sang, others she danced, others she competed and in others she was just interviewed.
When private channels were introduced in Spain in the 90s, Lola took advantage and started to present her first TV programme. She began to make use of this facet, but it would soon end because of her death.
These were the TV programmes that she presented:
· El tablao de Lola (Telecinco) (1992).
· Sabor a Lolas (Antenta 3 TV) (1992-1993) with her daughter, Lolita Flores.
· Ay Lola, Lolita, Lola (TVE) (1995) with her daughter, Lolita Flores.
Her last programme in TVE (Spanish Television, the national state-owned public-service television broadcaster in Spain) had to be cancelled in the 9th programme due to her illness, which started to get worse. In that show would be the last time she would sing in public. At first, she was supposed to remain standing during her performance, but finally she had to ask for a chair. She hardly moved her right arm, since it was swollen due to the cancer she suffered.
Her programmes were characterized by the presenters, who were part of the spectacle, in which they sang and danced. During this whole period in television she demonstrated that she did not stop singing and dancing until her last days.
Lola Flores never took part in a TV series as a protagonist. However, one of the last projects she made was “El coraje de vivir”, where she narrated her own life and which had several episodes. She also played an important role in the TV series Juncal in 1988.
These are some of the series where she was invited and in which she played different roles isolated:
- Juncal (TVE) (1988) as Merche.
- Farmacia de Guardia (Antena 3 TV) (1993) as Lola Flores acting with her daughter Lolita Flores.
- Los ladrones van a la oficina (Antena 3 TV) (1994) as the gypsy woman Lola, where she acted with her children Lolita and Antonio.
- El coraje de vivir (Antena 3 TV) (1994) as Lola Flores.
They paid several tributes to her during her life, but the most outstanding is the one they did in Miami in 1990, with the participation of great artists such as José Luis Rodríguez "El Puma", her compatriot Rocío Jurado, his great friend Celia Cruz and the whole family of Lola. In that event Lola participated in all the performances; with Rocío Jurado recorded the song "Dejándonos la piel".
Her last tribute was given by Antena 3 channel in 1994, to which Lola was invited, but she did not perform; she only enjoyed the performances of her friends and family, during that act said his mythical phrase: "Ya puedo morir tranquila” (I can now die calm).
The sisters Salazar, better known as Azúcar Moreno, paid tribute to her with a song that had and has still a great recognition in Spain and the entire world titled “Bailando con Lola".
In her native city she could not get to inaugurate an avenue in her honor, but she had the opportunity to witness how she was granted, in 1965, the silver medal of Jerez de la Frontera, in thanks for taking the name of his city to all corners of the world. The construction of a museum is being built in her memory in the Palace of Villapanés (next to her monument), which will house bibliography, multimedia and personal objects (dresses and enseres) of the artist.
In 2016, the Lara and Cajasol Foundations awarded the Manuel Alvar Prize for Humanistic Studies 2016 to the essay " Lola Flores: otra historia del espectáculo en la España contemporánea Spain" by Alberto Romero Ferrer.
She died on May 16, 1995 at her residence "El Lerele" situated in La Moraleja, municipality of Alcobendas (Madrid), at the age of 72, due to breast cancer that had been diagnosed in 1972. Her funeral chapel was installed in the Cultural Center of the Villa (currently Teatro Fernán Gómez) of Madrid, in Plaza de Colón (Colón’s square). In an open and shrouded coffin with a white blanket, all her admirers and friends could come and see her. She was taken to the Cemetery of the Almudena in Madrid where she was buried. It was one of the burials most remembered by the number of people who came; the funeral was broadcast live on television.
Fifteen days after her death, on May 31, 1995, her son Antonio Flores (aged 33) was found dead in the family residence of "El Lerele".