Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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MORÉ, Beny

(b Bartolomé Maximiliano Moré Gutiérrez, 24 August 1919, Santa Isabel de las Lajas, La Villas Province, Cuba; d 19 February 1963, Havana, Cuba) Singer, composer, arranger, bandleader; nicknamed 'El Barbaro del Ritmo' ('The Barbarian of Rhythm'); still revered for the versatility of his voice and his unrivalled capacity to stir audiences. Grew up in poverty, leaving school at twelve to work in sugar cane fields, but showing a flair for music from an early age, particularly singing; he learned guitar and conga and became proficient in all Afro-Cuban rhythms. He organized his own group at 16; tried to make it in Havana in 1936, but after six months had to resume work in the cane fields. He caught malaria, changed job to carter at Central Sugar Cane Co. on medical advice; meanwhile he became vocalist with group Avance, formed a guitar and voices trio with two Avance members and tried Havana again in 1940.

There he entered singing competitions (winning one), sang in a duo, joined Lázaro Cordero's Sexteto Figaro (with whom he made his radio debut), then Septeto Cauto (debuting with them on Radio Mil Diez in June '44); became first voice with the  conjunto octet of Miguel Matamoros (b 8 May 1894, Santiago de Cuba; d 15 April 1971, Cuba), formed in 1942); he went with them to Mexico in June 1945; collection Conjunto Matamoros With Beny Moré '92 on Tumbao included eight tracks he recorded with them in Mexico. Moré remained in Mexico (to marry a Mexican nurse in Mexico City in 1946) after Matamoros returned to Cuba September 1945. Lack of a musicians' union permit initially prevented him from performing; when consent was eventually granted, he started work at the celebrated Rio Rosa cabaret. He formed the popular duo Dueto Fantasma (aka Dueto Antillano) with Lalo Mantané; concurrently sang and recorded with bands of Arturo Núñez (with whom he had his first big hit, 'Mucho Corazon'), Mariano Merceron '48 (b Santiago de Cuba; d 26 Dec. 1975, Mexico City), composer Rafael de Paz (with whom he recorded the great Afro-Cuban song 'Yiri Yiri Bon' still associated with him), Chucho Rodriguez.

His stature in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America rose when he teamed in 1948 with the orchestra of Pérez Prado, who was just beginning his rise to popularity with the mambo, for various Mexican tours, a notable appearance at Panama carnival and numerous recordings: 'El Barbaro Del Ritmo' Mambos By Beny Moré '91 on Tumbao collects sides he recorded with Prado '48-50 on RCA Victor. He also appeared in some Mexican movies. Homesickness and personal problems led to his return to his home town early '51; still largely unknown in Cuba, he linked again with the Merceron band '51 for the daily radio show De Fiesta Con Bacardi on Cadena Oriental (based in Santiago de Cuba), a great success establishing national fame, followed by more radio work with the Bebo Valdés band on Cadena Azul in Havana '52. He also performed with Ernesto Duarte's band, but split due to musical and personal disagreements.

Trumpeter Alfredo 'Chocolate' Armenteros helped him to recruit musicians for his own 21-piece Banda Gigante with classic big-band jazz lineup but with traditional Cuban rhythm section at its heart, adding fire and soul; besides the famous Chocolate, the personnel included revered pianist/arranger/composer Peruchin (b Pedro Jústiz, 31 January 1913; d 24 December 1977, Havana), venerated trombonist/arranger Generoso 'El Tojo' Jiménez (b 17 July 1917, Cruces, Las Villas Province), timbalero Rolando La Serie, trumpeter Alejandro 'El Negro' Vivar (1923-79). He debuted with Banda Gigante August 1953 and went on to phenomenal influence throughout Latin America, Latin Caribbean and North American Latino enclaves; they made numerous recordings, international tours (including a performance at the 1956 Oscar ceremony in Hollywood: on that occasion the Luis Alcaraz orchestra accompanied him), TV and radio appearances: Beny Moré En Vivo '94 on Discmedi collects live '50s and '60s radio recordings broadcast on Cuba's Radio Progreso and CMQ. He remained in Cuba after the '59 revolution; notorious for heavy drinking, he died of cirrhosis at age 44. From 1990 the RCA Tropical Series started reissuing his classic recordings on CD, including The Most From Beny Moré '90 (recorded '55-7), Magia Antillana '91, Y Hoy Como Ayer ('53-8), Maracaibo Oriental '92 ('56-8), Mata Siguaraya '93 ('49--51). A tradition of tributes exists including Tito Puente's three volumes of Homenaje A Beny '78, '79, '85 on Tico (Celia Cruz sings a superb version of 'Yiri Yiri Bon' on the Grammy-winning '78 album), three volumes of Charanga De La 4's Recuerda a Beny Moré '81-3 on SAR, Pepe Mora's Tributo al 'Benny' '83 on Golden Notes, Roberto Torres's Rinde Homenaje a Beny Moré '90 on SAR, the hit trilogy on Oscar D'Leon's Autentico '91 on TH-Rodven. He sang 'Mi Saoco' with Banda Gigante in a film clip shown on BBC2 Arena programmes What's Cuba Playing At? '84, Latin Sound '86; another clip appears in the video Salsa Volume 5: Cuba -- Rum, Rhythm And Spice '92 on Bongo.