Singer and composer.
Joseíto Fernández was born on September 5, 1908 and always lived in "Los Sitios", a Havana neighborhood. He spent his life in the city environment but, as many Cuban researchers say, his abilities as sonero and his qualities as singer and improviser, allowed him to perform the peasant son and the Cuban punto.
When he was 20 years old, he already worked as shoe repair man, street vendor and singer in different septets. He also sang with the Raimundo Pía Orchestra and later on he founded his own orchestra.
In 1928, he composed a guajira son on a refrain or montuno entitled "Guajira Guantanamera"; but improvisation will not be the traditional quartets found in the son, but the seguidilla, thus developing a history composed by a number of décimas, sung uninterruptedly. This improvising singing was the greatest merit attributed to Joseíto Fernández who also had a voice with an extensive register.
Joseíto and his orchestra interpreted all the repertoire in fashion at that time, namely rumbas, congas, guarachas, criollas and boleros. But the "Guajira Guantanamera" conveyed messages and transmitted facts and daily events. So, it became extremely popular in radio stations across the country and listeners called him "The King of Melody".
During the 1960s, American singer Pete Seeger, who was interested in learning Cuban country music, replaced the "Guajira Guantanamera" refrains by quartets from Versos Sencillos written by José Martí, exquisite poet and National Hero of the Revolutionary Cuba. In 1971, Pete Seeger met Joseíto Fernández during his visit to Cuba for that purpose and since then they became close friends. This friendship lasted until Joseíto´s death eight years later.
There are more than sixty versions of "Guajira Guantanamera", performed by groups and singers from all over the world.