Maria Grever and Children 1921

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    Musician and composer Maria Grever, traveling to Mexico (as Joaquina Grever) to rejoin her husband, oil executive Leon A Grever, a native of Cincinnati Ohio. Note that her husband's name is given erroneously as "Leo" in most biographies. Also the usual birth date given for Maria is Aug 16, 1894 which is almost certainly wrong. Her two passport applications give her birth date as Aug 16 of either 1888 or 1889.

    Her children are daughter Carmen and son Charles.

    "Although a few of her songs remain international favorites today, Grever has eluded significant coverage in the pages of music history - she is not even mentioned in most listings and encyclopedias of composers. Yet many of her songs, estimated to number in the hundreds, live on, kept alive by recording stars like Placido Domingo and Aretha Franklin.

    Grever was born to a Spanish father and Mexican mother on [September 14, 1894, see above], in Mexico City, Mexico [Actually, she was born in León, Guanajuato, Mexico, 16 Aug 1888 or 1889. See comments, below]. Her maiden name was Maria de la Portilla. She spent much of her childhood in Spain and traveled widely in Europe with her family. At the age of 12, she returned to Mexico. According to a New York Times article, Grever composed her first piece of music - a Christmas carol - when she was four years old. Grever settled in New York after marrying Leo A. Grever, an American oil company executive, who was best man in her sister's wedding. She was wed to Grever four days after her sister's nuptials.

    Grever studied piano, violin, and voice, although one account of her life suggests that she learned to read music only in her later years. In fact, most of her songs were written in one key. Grever was said to have the gift of perfect pitch. A 1919 review of one of her first New York City concerts in the New York Times mentions that Grever, a soprano, performed opera in Madrid early in her career.
    Grever was an extraordinarily versatile musician. She frequently wrote both the melodies and lyrics of her pieces and then performed the pieces in live concerts. During her career, which peaked in the 1930s and 1940s, she wrote film scores and lyrics for Broadway shows and organized concerts combining theatre, music, dance, and song. She was also a voice teacher. But Grever's strongest legacy is her songs. Often based on the folk rhythms and styles of Latin American music, particularly Mexican or Spanish tangos, the lyrics are lushly romantic, full of feeling, and easy to recall. Her message is always direct. For example, her song "Yo No Se" ("I Know Not") begins with the stanza: "When at night my thoughts are winging / To you, my dear, / Then your voice, an old song singing, / I seem to hear; / You are kneeling by me, blending, / Though far away, / Your voice with mine ascending, / In a song of love's first day."
    Grever often worked with American lyricists, who translated the songs from Spanish to English to make them accessible to audiences in the United States. In fact, Grever collaborated with three of the leading songwriters of her day - Stanley Adams, Irving Caesar, and Raymond Leveen."

    Read more:

    Also a very interesting write up by Pamela Rose at:


    Make sure to read the comments.

    Buttons McTavish and panzitaverde added this photo to their favorites.

    1. toledo589ad 45 months ago | reply

      Exellent bio, it is a shame she is not better known today! The song Jurame is among my favorites ever. She won a Grammy, by the way with What a difference a day makes, sang by the great Dinah Washington.

    2. puzzlemaster 45 months ago | reply

      Thanks Roberto. She was very influential. It also shows how many musical influences went into forming what became known as "The American Songbook".

    3. panzitaverde 42 months ago | reply

      Maria Joaquina de la Portilla, Maria Grever, nacio en la Ciudad de León, Guanajuato en México, y no en la Ciudad de México como aquí se menciona, saludos

    4. puzzlemaster 42 months ago | reply

      panzitaverde Thank you for your clarification. The Mexico City birthplace is given in the quoted text. Both her 1918 and 1921 passport applications give her birthplace as León, Guanajuato, Mexico and her birthdate as 16 August, 1888 or 1889.

    5. panzitaverde 38 months ago | reply

      Tienes alguna foto mas de maria grever, y si tenia pasaporte de los estados unidos de america USA, entonces estaba nacionalizada norteamericana, era ciudadana estadounidense

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