Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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CHACÓN, Antonio

(b 16 May 1865, Jérez de la Frontera, Spain; d 21 January 1929, Madrid) Flamenco singer, the first 'great' of the century, noted for his extraordinarily clear alto voice. A shoemaker's apprentice, then a cooper, he began performing at 16, toured Andalucía in poverty, and in 1886 was invited by the great cantaor Silverio Franconetti to sing in his cafe in Seville. He settled in Madrid by 1912, becoming recognized as the unrivalled singer of his day; he toured Argentina in 1913 and was a judge in a famous flamenco contest at Granada in 1922. With his favourite accompanist Ramon Montoya he composed harmonic adaptations of Andalusian songs; malagueñas were his trademark. His melodious, occasionally feminine voice (lubricated by limitless alcohol), theatrical style and tendency to play down the harsher gypsy elements of the genre brought new audiences to flamenco, as well as a good income and some opprobrium from later traditionalists like Ricardo Molina. He recorded on four occasions (1909, '13, '25, '28), the last while he was dying of syphilis in poverty, but the records were influential: reissues include Los Ases de Flamenco, Don Antonio Chacón '78 on EMI and four tracks on vol. 3 of Flamencología: antología del cante flamenco. His compositions have been covered by Enrique Morente on Homenaje a Don Antonio Chacón '77; José Blas Vega wrote biography Vida y cante de don Antonio Chacón.