[Marxism] Ibrahim Ferrer, 78, Cuban Singer in 'Buena Vista Social Club, ' Dies (NYT)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 8 03:05:09 MDT 2005


August 8, 2005
Ibrahim Ferrer, 78, Cuban Singer in 'Buena Vista Social Club,' Dies

Ibrahim Ferrer, the Cuban singer whose life included one of
popular music's most triumphant second acts, died on
Saturday in Havana. He was 78.

The cause was multiple organ failure, his manager, Carmen
Romero, announced.

Mr. Ferrer was at the center of the Buena Vista Social
Club, a phenomenon that brought long-delayed international
fame to a group of older Cuban musicians thanks to a
Grammy-winning 1997 album produced by Ry Cooder and a
subsequent film by Wim Wenders, both by that name. Besides
offering American audiences a musician's-eye view of Cuba,
the film set up Mr. Ferrer as a particularly sympathetic
figure - tall, distinguished and lively, an excellent
bolero singer who used space and silence in his relaxed
elegant delivery to increase the drama, a man who had been
rolled over by history and was now simply trying to enjoy
an absurdly lucky situation.

At the time that he was enticed out of retirement to make
the album, Mr. Ferrer was living on a small state pension
and shining shoes in Havana for extra money.

He was not interested in recording anymore; he had retired
from singing in 1991.

"An angel came and picked me up and said, 'Chico, come and
do this record,' " he said in 1998. "I didn't want to do
it, because I had given up on music."

Born in 1927 at a social club dance in the eastern city of
Santiago de Cuba - his mother went into labor on a night
out - Mr. Ferrer's first professional involvement with
music came at age 13, a year after he became an orphan,
when he joined a band, Los Jóvenes del Son.

Later he sang with groups that included Conjunto Sorpresa,
the Orquesta Chepín Chovén (with which he had a local hit,
"El Platanal de Bartolo," in 1955) and the Beny Moré
orchestra, with which he was a background vocalist; in 1953
he began working with Pacho Alonso's band, Maravilla de
Beltrán, in Santiago. The band later moved from Santiago to
Havana and called itself Los Bocucos.

For most of his career Mr. Ferrer generally sang uptempo
numbers, guarachas and sones, not the slow romantic
boleros, even though he loved them. But his chance finally
came on "The Buena Vista Social Club," when Mr. Cooder and
Juan de Marcos González, the album's musical director,
persuaded him to sing songs like "Dos Gardenias," which he
had learned decades before when singing with Moré.

In 1998, the Cuban Egrem label released "Tierra Caliente,"
an album of older songs he had made with Los Bocucos. In
1999 the British World Circuit label (with Nonesuch in the
United States) released Mr. Ferrer's first solo album, and
in 2003 his second, "Buenos Hermanos"; both were produced
by Mr. Cooder. In "Buenos Hermanos" Mr. Cooder took more
artistic liberties, stirring the very un-Cuban accordion
and the gospel singing group the Blind Boys of Alabama into
the mix.

Though by this time he was in his 70's, Mr. Ferrer won a
Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2000. "Buenos Hermanos"
won a Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album of
2003, but Mr. Ferrer was denied a visa to enter the United
States for the awards ceremony last year.

His last performance in New York was in April 2003. He was
on a European tour in the week leading up to his death.

Mr. Ferrer is survived by his wife, Caridad Díaz, 6
children, 14 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, Ms.
Romero said.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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