Compay Segundo, born November 18, 1907(1907-11-18), deceased July 13, 2003 (aged 95), was a Cuban musician and songwriter.
Born Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz in the town of Siboney, in the East of Cuba, he moved to the city of Santiago de Cuba at age 9. In his early years he played the guitar, the clarinet, the bongos, and the congas. He became a songwriter and performer, well-known to fans of Cuban music as the second voice and tres player for Los Compadres, a group he formed in 1948 with Lorenzo Hierrezuelo.
(Compadre, or compay for short, in Spanish indicates the relationship between a godparent and the parents of the godchild; thus someone's "compadre" is the godfather of his or her offspring, of the father of his or her godchild; as a colloquialism the term designates a good friend).
Los Compadres were one of the most successful Cuban bands of their time. Their music still enjoys considerable popularity in the Spanish speaking Caribbean. Greater international fame came first in 1994, when he went to Spain, then later in 1997, with the release of the Buena Vista Social Club album, a hugely successful recording which won several Grammy awards. Compay Segundo appeared in the film of the same title, made subsequently by Wim Wenders.
Segundo's most famous composition is "Chan Chan", the opening track on the Buena Vista Social Club album, whose four opening chords are instantly recognizable all over the world. "Chan Chan" was recorded by Segundo himself various times as well as by countless other Latin artists.
He used to take his pulse and joked about his vitality despite his 90-plus years.
"Who could have imagined that?" he asked when he found himself at the Vatican City, performing "Chan Chan" before Pope John Paul II. He explained his longevity simply: mutton consommé and a drink of rum.
He predicted that he would live to be 115, but died of kidney failure in Havana, twenty years short of his ambition.
Compay Segundo was also the inventor of the armónico, a seven-stringed guitar-like instrument, created to eliminate a harmonic jump in the Spanish guitar and the tres.
ECOS DE SIBONEY
The members of this band are my grandchildren. I have taught them to play traditional music and will carry on teaching them. They have learned well, and without sounding presumptuous I think they can walk in my footsteps. They will duly and adequately represent Compay Segundo. Francisco Repilado (Compay Segundo)