July 14, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Adios, Compay

Today's obituaries mark the passing of a great musician, Cuban icon Compay Segundo. Who? you may be asking. If you've heard—or even heard of—the Buena Vista Social Club, Compay was the patriarch of the Cuban musical ensemble. Earning fame back in the 1940s and '50s by giving life to the Cuban son style of music, he fell into obscurity with many other great Cuban musicians until being rediscovered in the 1990s—by then in his 90s himself. A Grammy-winning compact disc produced by Ry Cooder and a documentary directed by Wim Wenders shone the spotlight back on Compay and his compadres, Ruben Gonzales, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and others.

I first became acquainted with Compay and his music when I watched the DVD of "Buena Vista Social Club." The film received critical acclaim when it was released, so I checked it out when it came out on video. Compay dominated the first few scenes, his joie de vivre belying his advanced age. Chomping on a cigar and strumming a guitar in the back of a convertible Caddy, he filled the screen with his personality. From the moment I heard the first few chords of "Chan Chan" (play clip: Windows Media | Real Player), the first song on the DVD/CD, I was hooked. I immediately went out and bought the compact disc soundtrack, and have since nearly worn it out. I was hooked on Cuban music.

I'm an expert in neither Cuban musical history or music in general. As the saying goes, however, "I may not know much about music, but I know what I like." You can hear the passion in the thrumming minor chords, wailing brass themes, plaintive piano fingering and pulsing bass beats. The music has more life than any other I've heard. And though dancing falls pretty low on the list of things I enjoy doing, I can't think of any other music that's more perfectly suited to grabbing your woman and burning up the dance floor.

¡Adios Compay, y gracias por la música!

 

©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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July Columns:

7/21: Hiatus
7/17: Death Ship
7/16: The Da Vinci Code
7/15: Bad Moon Rising
7/14: Adios, Compay
7/13: Ty Odeh
7/10: Muse
7/6: Memories
7/4: On the Road Again
7/3: Onion Valley
7/2: Happy Independence Day
Previous months in The Archive

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