Song Spotlight: “Solamente Una Vez”

You might hear mariachi singing this song. Photo via RinzeWind at

  • Mood: Sentimental
  • Themes: True love
  • Tempo: Moderate
  • Genre/style: Mexican bolero

A particular advantage of music as a therapeutic medium is that connections can be made across cultural boundaries and even language barriers. Sharing a song from another person’s childhood or homeland can be powerful, and even when conversation is not possible, you can still be in music together. This is one reason why music therapists can be especially helpful in cross-cultural therapeutic interactions, whether that be with patients in a hospital, children in a bilingual classroom, or families spending the last few weeks and days with a person on hospice care.

In my part of the world, I frequently work with folks who are native Spanish speakers. So, over many years of practice, I’ve built up a repertoire of Spanish-language songs, especially those that appeal to my older adult clients. One of my favorites – a song that is almost always familiar – is “Solamente Una Vez.”

This song was written and originally sung by Mexican songwriter Agustín Lara, a prolific composer who eventually wrote more than 800 compositions. The original Spanish version has been performed by many artists, including Benny Moré, Ignacio Piñeiro, and Luis Miguel.

A later English version, “You Belong to My Heart,” was featured in the 1944 Disney film “The Three Caballeros.” Ray Gilbert wrote the English lyrics for this version, which are not translations of Lara’s original lyrics. Notably, Bing Crosby later made a popular recording of the English version.

The original Spanish lyrics are romantic, sentimental, and potentially heart-breaking, as the singer tells of the beauty and wonder of his one true love. Here’s the first part of the song:

Solamente una vez (Only one time)

Amé en la vida (Have I loved in my life)

Solamente una vez (Only one time)

Y nada más (And not again)

Isn’t that lovely? This song doesn’t really invite in-depth discussion, just the pleasant memory of love. For English-speaking Americans, an equivalent song might be “Love Me Tender” or “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The difference is that those latter two songs get played and sung much more often in our senior living communities, while hearing “Solamente Una Vez” may be a much more special occurrence.

Sharing a popular song in your from your senior’s cultural background is a beautiful way to connect, but I will offer one word of caution: even if you aren’t a fluent speaker of the language and cannot make a direct translation, it is important to know what a song is about. Otherwise, you might find that your resident has an unexpected emotional response that you would not be prepared to address.

Were you already familiar with “Solamente Una Vez?” What songs are important to your cultural background? Please share in the comments below! 

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.


11 thoughts on “Song Spotlight: “Solamente Una Vez”

  1. musicsparks says:

    What a beautiful song! It is always interesting sharing songs from other cultures with older adults. Even if they are not familiar with it, the music creates a feel, an emotion, or an opportunity to connect.

  2. Andrea Yun-Springer says:

    Thanks for sharing! I work in an assisted living facility with all Korean or Korean-American older adults. The #1 traditional song I use is Arirang, there are many variations so upbeat versions are used for movement and slower ones for relaxation.

  3. Heather says:

    Great post! This is exactly what I was looking for! I have recently moved to El Paso and many of the new clients that I am working with are bilingual-spanish or even monolingual spanish. Would you be willing to share a list of some more of the spanish tunes that you have found to be popular with seniors? I’d really appreciate it.

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