This is the best-known song from the 1978 musical Evita
, featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice
. The show tells the story of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentinean president Juan Perón. This song appears early in the second act as Evita addresses the crowd from the balcony of the Casa Rosada.
Tim Rice's original inspiration for writing a musical about Eva Perón arose from listening to a BBC Radio 4 programme about the Argentine First Lady.
Both Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber recognized the potential of this song but Rice thought the lyric might be too obscure for a pop single. He did rework it as "It's Only Your Lover Returning," before the duo decided they still preferred "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."
Evita began as a rock opera concept album released in 1976 and Julie Covington was selected to sing the title role, including the vocals for this song. Released as a single, it topped the UK singles chart becoming at the time the biggest selling UK hit by a female vocalist with sales of 980,000 units.
Prior to recording this song, Covington was best known for her role in the TV series Rock Follies. She was later given the opportunity to originate the role in the stage production of Evita, but declined, explaining that she thought the impact of her recording would be diminished. Musical actress Elaine Paige took the role when the show opened on June 21, 1978, followed by Patti LuPone the following year on Broadway.
Covington refused to promote the song, not even appearing on Top Of The Pops. Tim Rice recalled in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: "When the single began to show signs of being a hit, she got less and less interested in the project. She began to back away from it and began to feel it was a fascist plot, that we were exploiting the workers. I'm exaggerating a bit but she definitely disapproved of the success of 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina.'"
The song has been a hit on three other occasions. A 1978 instrumental version by The Shadows reached #5 in the UK, Mike Flowers Pops took it to #30 in the UK in 1996 and Madonna's 1997 recording, which she sung it for the movie version peaked at #3 in the UK and #8 in the US. Madonna's rendition reached #1 in several countries, most notably in France, where it became her second chart-topper.
Other artists that have covered the song include the Carpenters, Olivia Newton-John, Sinead O'Connor, Sarah Brightman
and The Glee Cast.
Patti LuPone performed this at the Grammy Awards in 1981 and again in 2018 in a tribute to Andrew Lloyd-Webber.