ARTIST: Joseito Fernandez
Listen to it here:
Guantanamera started off as a poem of four verses by Cuban poet Jose Marti and set to music by Joseito Fernandez as early as 1929. Although the lyrics to the song are often improvised, the most common lyrics sung by Fernandez are about a country girl from Guantanamo (!) who he was interested in and started a relationship with, but ended up being friend zoned.
The song saw commercial success in North America after being performed by folk icon Pete Seeger at a recorded Carnegie Hall Concert. Seeger and the rest of his group the Weavers chose to perform the song to show unity between the American and Cuban people during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The most commercially successful version of the song was recorded by easy-listening vocal group the Sandpipers in 1966 and it hit number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
There is not a lot on Joseito Fernandez, except that he was born in Havana, Cuba on September 5, 1908, had a radio show, wrote Guantanamera, and died in Havana on October 11, 1979.
Joseito Fernandez’s original lyrics for the song were his improvised comments on the daily news that he would conclude his radio show with.
Does anyone else remember that episode of South Park where the boys get fed up because there are those Latin American pan flute bands taking over the outdoor malls? This is what this song reminds me of. Every busker or street musician has this little dandy in their repertoire. HAVING SAID THAT, damn it’s a catchy song. The harmonies are beautiful and super tight, and I think I would actually really love to hear this version of this song whilst ambling down the streets of Havana. It’s not a song I would listen to for fun or actively seek out, but it’s not awful. But it does make me want a mojito.
Oh. Guantanamera. Great. Every crappy busker with an acoustic guitar and cheap amp plays this on the subways throughout Europe! I had a hard time listening to this one objectively too. If there’s one thing I can say about the melody, it’s that it’s super catchy. It’s almost guaranteed to get stuck in your head. I love the brass, and percussion, not a huge fan of the strings in this arrangement. I sort of can’t wait until the point where the saxophone is more commonly used….I like Joseito Fernandez’s voice a lot. It’s really smooth and, well, Cuban! I’m going to say that I like the musicality, but not really the song itself.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song (include youtube links when possible)
The most commercially successful version by the Sandpipers:
Celia Cruz, because she’s a Cuban legend:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: