The main characters can't sleep. Haunted by the word silencio, they wander into a late-night cabaret, where a sadly gorgeous singer with a tear drawn under her eye sings “Llorando,” a Spanish version of Roy Orbison's “Crying.”
Halfway through the song, the singer falls to the ground and passes out. She is carried offstage as her voice continues to resonate through the theatre.
The scene is the climax of David Lynch's film, Mulholland Dr. The singer is Chula Vista native Rebekah Del Rio.
Though best known for that role, the vocalist with a three-octave range has entertained entertainment's elite, sharing the stage with the likes of Rod Stewart, Poe and Sir Elton John. She has sung “Llorando” a capella for such notables as Sting, Ricky Martin, Bono and Pamela Anderson. But Del Rio's first audiences were her family, and a bunch of San Diegans who were rabid about RVs.
She remembers her musical “career” starting at age 3.
“I performed at our first family wedding and subsequently got the bug right then and there,” she says. “I did receive payment in the form of tossed coins.” At age 11, Del Rio offered herself up to a real gig performing for a local RV Convention, making $75.
Soon after her 20th birthday, Del Rio was voted one of the “Top 10 Singers in San Diego” by the San Diego Union-Tribune. She was one of the few female country singers performing in the area.
“I was performing in [country bars] and that was very easy for me because of my great desire to sing like Patsy Cline,” she says.
In 1989, Del Rio ventured to Los Angeles to see if she could really make it. She had performed Orbison's “Crying” in English until someone suggested it be done in Spanish. In 1993, she hired Venezuelan lyricist, Thania Sanz, to rewrite the song to be sung a cappella in Spanish.
“The lyrics resonated in my throat, and for the first time in my singing career I felt one with a song,” she says of the first time singing the Spanish version. “It made me cry with sadness and joy because I had found a gem I could call my own.”
In 1994, “Llorando” helped her land Del Rio a deal with Giant Records. Wanting to be close to the label's offices so she wouldn't suffer the “out of sight, out of mind” logic of the record industry, she again uprooted her life, this time to Nashville. While working on her debut album, Nobody's Angel, however, tragedy struck.
A week prior to the release of her first single, Del Rio was in a devastating car accident. After 13 months in physical therapy she returned to Giant only to find that they had changed presidents and her album had been canned.
Del Rio then accepted an invite to visit with infamous director David Lynch in Los Angeles. He asked her to sing “Llorando” in Lynch's personal studio. Unbeknownst to her, the director recorded it.
Lynch was so smitten by Del Rio and her song that he wrote a special part for her in Mulholland Dr. During Q&A sessions with entertainment reporters after the film's release, Lynch would introduce her alongside the movie's leading stars.
“I was so incredibly nervous and elated all at the same time,” she recalls. “You can imagine how wonderful that was for a poor girl from Chula Vista.”
After a Hollywood tabletop performance earlier this year, Del Rio was approached by Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, who asked her to perform at Carnegie Hall for Styler's annual Rainforest Benefit concert with Sir Elton John, James Taylor and Patti Labelle.
Since, she's become a singer with a perennial cause, performing at the 2nd Annual Southern California RAINN Event to benefit RAINN's hotline for victims of sexual abuse, and at the Vincent Longo/Sebera Foundation Concert in Cannes, France. For the latter, she was flown to a French palace to give a show to stars like Ricky Martin, Bono, Brian Adams, Pamela Anderson and Melanie Griffith.
Nowadays, Del Rio continues her pursuit of a record deal and takes care of her only son. She plans to re-record “Llorando” with a full band and release it as a single. Like other fellow indie musicians, she's looking for funds on her own.
When asked about what she hopes the future holds for the Mexican-American single mother, Del Rio dreamily replies:
“I hope a successful record and a world tour, a posada in Mexico where I can retire with a song in my heart and a smile on my lips, most of all happiness for my son.”