Rosas was born in Santa Cruz de Galeana, Guanajuato, now renamed Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas. Rosas began his musical career as a street musician and playing with dance music bands in Mexico City. In 1884/85 and 1888 he matriculated into the conservatory, both times leaving it without taking any examination.
Most of Rosas's compositions—among them "Sobre las Olas" ("Over the Waves")—were issued by Wagner y Levien and Nagel Sucesores in Mexico City.
In the late 1880s, Rosas is reported to be a member of a military band, and in 1891 he worked in Michoacán. In 1892-93 he was around Monterrey, before joining an orchestra in 1893 for a tour through the USA. During this tour the group played also at the World Columbian Exposition World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1894 he went for a several-month tour to Cuba with an Italian-Mexican ensemble, where he came down with major health problems and had to stay behind in Surgidero de Batabanó. As a result of spinal myelitis he died there at the age of 26. Fifteen years later, in 1909, his remains were brought back to Mexico.
Rosas was one of the best known Mexican composers of salon music, and the composer with the highest number of editions abroad and of sound recordings, the first of them released in 1898. Rosas's best known work is "Sobre las Olas" or "Over the Waves". It was first published in Mexico in 1888. It remains popular as a classic waltz, and has also found its way into New Orleans Jazz and Tejano music. In the United States "Sobre las Olas" has a cultural association with funfairs, and trapeze artists, as it was one of the tunes available for Wurlitzer's popular line of fairground organs. The music was used for the tune "The Loveliest Night of the Year", which was sung by Ann Blyth in MGM's film The Great Caruso. It remains popular with country and old-time fiddlers in the United States.
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