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"Guantanamera" (Spanish: "from Guantánamo, feminine" indicating a woman from Guantánamo) is perhaps the best known Cuban song and that country's most noted patriotic song, especially when using a poem by the Cuban poet José Martí for the lyrics. In 1966, a version by American vocal group The Sandpipers, based on an arrangement by The Weavers from their May 1963 Carnegie Hall Reunion concert, became an international hit. It has been recorded by many other solo artists, notably by Julio Iglesias, Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, Celia Cruz, Bobby Darin, Joe Dassin, José Feliciano, Wyclef Jean, Puerto Plata, Trini Lopez, La Lupe, Nana Mouskouri, Tito Puente, and Pete Seeger, and by such groups as Buena Vista Social Club and the Gipsy Kings.
By José Martí
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The better known "official" lyrics are based on selections from the poetry collection Versos sencillos (Simple Verses) by Cuban poet and independence hero José Martí, as adapted by Julián Orbón. The four verses of the song were adapted from four stanzas of Versos sencillos, each from a different poem. They are presented here in the original Spanish (poem:stanza).
By José Fernández
Given the song's musical structure, which fits A-B-A-B (sometimes A-B-B-A) octosyllabic verses, "Guantanamera" lent itself from the beginning to impromptu verses, improvised on the spot, similar to what happens with the Mexican folk song "La Bamba". Joseíto Fernández first used the tune to comment on daily events on his radio program by adapting the lyrics to the song's melody, and then using the song to conclude his show. Through this use, "Guantanamera" became a popular vehicle for romantic, patriotic, humorous, or social commentary in Cuba and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.
The lyrics often sung by Fernández are about a peasant woman or country girl (guajira) from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who eventually left him. Fernández provided several explanations during his lifetime, including that she did not have a romantic interest in him, but merely a platonic one. In one version, she once brought him the gift of a steak sandwich to the radio station where he worked. He stared at and attempted to flirt with another woman while eating the sandwich, and his friend yanked it out of his hands in disgust, cursed him, and left. He never saw her again. These words are rarely sung today. Another history behind the chorus and its lyrics ("Guantanamera … / Guajira Guantanamera …" a peasant woman from Guantánamo) is similar: García claimed he was at a street corner with a group of friends and made a pass (a pick-up line—or piropo in Spanish—like "your mother made you good", "you came from a star") to a woman who walked by the group. She answered back rather harshly, offended by the pass. Stunned, he could not take his mind off her reaction while his friends made fun of him; later that day, sitting at a piano with his friends near him, he wrote the song's main refrain.
The music for the song is sometimes attributed to Joseíto Fernández as well, who claimed to have written it at various dates (consensus puts 1929 as its year of origin), and who used it regularly in one of his radio programs. Some[who?] claim that the song's structure actually came from Herminio "El Diablo" García Wilson, who could be credited as a co-composer. García's heirs took the matter to court decades later, but lost the case; the People's Supreme Court of Cuba credited Fernández as the sole composer of the music in 1993. Regardless of either claim, Fernández can safely be claimed as being the first to promote the song widely through his radio programs.
|Single by The Sandpipers|
|B-side||What Makes You Dream, Pretty Girl?|
|Genre||Pop, easy listening, Latin, Folk|
|Writer(s)||Héctor Angulo, José Martí, Pete Seeger|
|The Sandpipers singles chronology|
The version of the song created by Martí and Orbón was used by Pete Seeger as the basis of his reworked version, which he based on a performance of the song by Héctor Angulo. Seeger combined Martí's verse with the tune, with the intention that it be used by the peace movement at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. He urged that people sing the song as a symbol of unity between the American and Cuban peoples, and called for it to be sung in Spanish to "hasten the day [that] the USA... is some sort of bilingual country."
The most commercially successful version of "Guantanamera" in the English-speaking world was recorded by easy listening vocal group The Sandpipers in 1966. Their recording was based on Pete Seeger's adaptation of the song and was arranged by Mort Garson and produced by Tommy LiPuma. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 7 on the UK singles chart.
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||9|
|U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary||3|
|U.K. Singles Charts||7|
|Canadian RPM Top Tracks||10|
|Dutch Top 40||3|
|German Singles Charts||22|
|Irish Singles Charts||3|
In popular culture
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- The general tune of this song is a common British football chant, such as "There's only one (insert player/manager name)", "You only sing when you're winning", and "You're getting sacked in the morning". It is also used as soundtrack of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, a football video game developed and published by KONAMI.
- Marlon Wayans performs a version of the song in White Chicks at the opening scene of the film. Tony Lockett, a player in the Australian Football League, was praised in the song "One Tony Lockett", using the tune of "Guantanamera", performed by James Freud and the Reserves.
- Michael Nesmith of The Monkees sang a parody song entitled "One Ton Tomato" which included the lyrics: "One ton tomato, I ate a one ton tomato...".
- Dana Carvey of Saturday Night Live sang a parody song about "one ton of fan mail", involving a rival pair of Latin singers who try to one-up each other's exploits to the tune of "Guantanamera".
- A group of ants, including Z, do a line dance to the song early in the movie Antz.
- It is sung in the movie For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story.
- The song is referenced in the Don McKellar film Last Night.
- The song is famously played in the Godfather Part II at the New Year's Eve party in Cuba where Michael Corleone tells his brother Fredo Corleone that he knows that he betrayed him.
- Cheal, David (March 13, 2015). "The Life of a Song: 'Guantanamera'". Financial Times. Financial Times Ltd. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
His chorus sings the praises of a guajira (peasant woman) from Guantánamo (the Guantanamera of the title)
- Hamilton, Valerie (March 24, 2016). "How 'Guantanamera' went from Cuba's unofficial anthem to a Swedish recycling jingle". Public Radio International. Public Radio International. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
The song's refrain, “guajira Guantanamera,” means “country girl from Guantanamo.
- "Define gua-ji-ra". Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, LLC. 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
literally, peasant woman
- Vizcaíno, María Argelia, Aspectos de la Guantanamera, La Página de José Martí , Part 1, and Manuel, Peter (2006), "The Saga of a Song: Authorship and Ownership in the Case of 'Guantanamera'". Latin American Music Review 27/2, pp. 1-47
- "Jose Marti. La Guantanamera por María Argelia Vizcaíno #2-2". Josemarti.org. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
- Josh Kun. "Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America". Books.google.co.uk. p. 6. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
- Stewart Mason, Review of Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, Allmusic.com. Retrieved May 24, 2013
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 34 - Revolt of the Fat Angel: American musicians respond to the British invaders. [Part 2] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 618. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
- Tom Lamont. "Tom Lamont on the chant-makers of British football | Football". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
- "James Freud and the Reserves - One Tony Lockett (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 2016-09-29.