|Birth name||Maria Joaquina de la Portilla Torres|
September 14, 1885|
León, Guanajuato, Mexico
|Died||December 15, 1951
New York City, New York, United States
María Joaquina de la Portilla Torres was born to a Spanish father (Francisco de la Portilla) and Mexican mother (Julia Torres) in Guanajuato, Mexico. For the first six years of her life she lived in Mexico City, moving to her father's natal city, Sevilla, in 1888. She studied music in France, with Claude Debussy and Franz Lenhard among her teachers. In 1900 she moved back to Mexico and continued her musical studies at her aunt's solfège school. In 1907, the then 22 year old de la Portilla, married Leo A. Grever, an American oil company executive, and in 1916 moved to New York City where she lived for the rest of her life.
Grever wrote more than 800 songs — the majority of them boleros — and her popularity reached audiences in Latin America, Europe, and the United States. She was said to have possessed perfect pitch and wrote most of her songs in one key. Her first piece of music, a Christmas carol, was composed when she was four years old. She wrote her first song when she was 18 years old, "A Una Ola" (To a Wave), and it sold three million copies.
Grever once said: “I had to leave my country, and now in New York I am interested in Jazz and Modern Rhythms, but above all, in Mexican Music, which I long to present to the American people. I am afraid they don't know much about it. It is music worth spreading; there is such a cultural richness in Mexican Music (its Hispanic and indigenous origins and how they mix) where melody and rhythm merge. It is my wish and yearning to present the native rhythms and tunes (of Mexico) from a real perspective, but with the necessary flexibility to appeal to the universal audience".
Grever's first international hit was "Júrame" (Promise, Love), a habanera-bolero interpreted in a masterly manner by tenor José Mojica. Other hits continued to follow, such as "Volveré" (I Will Return); "Te quiero dijiste" (Magic Is the Moonlight), written for the 1944 Esther Williams film Bathing Beauty, as well as "Cuando vuelva a tu lado" (When I Return To Your Side) and "Por si no te vuelvo a ver"(What if I see you again).
In 1953, Argentine singer-actress and Latin America star Libertad Lamarque portrayed Grever in Cuando me vaya (When I Leave), a biopic directed by Tito Davison. Three years later, Lamarque released a best-selling tribute to Grever's most popular songs titled Libertad Lamarque canta canciones de Maria Grever.
Then, in 1959 Dinah Washington recorded "What A Difference A Day Makes" (originally "Cuando vuelva a tu lado"), which became her signature song. Grever won a Grammy Award with it, and in 1998 the recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Grever died in 1951 in New York. At her own request, her funerary remains were transported to Mexico City.