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Appreciation: COMPAY SEGUNDO

1 minute read
Nathan Thornburgh

COMPAY SEGUNDO, 95, died in his professional prime. Well known during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the golden age of Cuban son music, Segundo saw his traditional balladeering trail into obscurity, and he spent nearly two decades as a roller in the H. Upmann cigar factory in Havana. Then, in his late 80s, he formed the Buena Vista Social Club with a gaggle of other aging all-stars. The eponymous album and motion picture reintroduced much of the world to Cuban music and made the charismatic Segundo perhaps the most recognizable beardless Cuban alive. The gregarious nonagenarian reveled in his stardom: he played for the Pope, surrounded himself with women and transported millions of listeners to a simpler, more romantic era with his rich baritone. He was, as Buena Vista Social Club collaborator Ry Cooder put it, “the last of the best.” –By Nathan Thornburgh

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