I knew this guy once. Actually, we were just acquaintances. For a brief time, he was dating a good friend of ours. This was back in the mid 70's. I'm not sure how they met, but Barbara was in crazy love with Facundo Cabral. Barbara led a pretty exotic lifestyle back then. I think they met in Europe. Anyway, when we were in college Facundo and Barbara were an item for a while. And any friend of Barbara's was a friend of ours.
When Barbara introduced us to Facundo, she said he was well known in South America and Spain. He was sort of "the Cat Stevens of the Spanish speaking world". He was fun and easy to be around and was as interested in learning about us as we were about him. He had a great folky finger style of guitar playing that I aspired to. He played a big nylon string guitar with beautiful tone. And sang... like an angel. A baritone angel.
"I'm amazed to form part of this amazing universe and I'm proud of the hunger that keeps me awake. Because when man is full he falls asleep." ~ Facundo Cabral
His English was not great - which attracted me to him even more. It was fun for us to get to know each other, albeit on a surface level, with limited common language. He didn't act famous. In fact, he was self-depricating, even modest.
He played a couple of songs for us. And while I don't remember the songs, I think one was in English. It was probably a cover tune. The other was in Spanish. It was a protest song. I didn't understand it, but I remember it's power. I think he translated the lyrics for us. Again, I don't remember the specific topic but I remember loving it.
While we only met a couple of times, he asked me to play some songs for him, which I gratefully did. I probably played some blues and a couple simple original tunes. Thinking back, it probably sucked, but he acted appreciative. He gave specific feedback. That's what a singer-songwriter likes.
Barbara and Facundo went their seperate ways. We knew they would. After all, they didn't even live on the same continent.
But Facundo was memorable. He was magnetic, earnest, charismatic.
"I don't waste time taking care of myself. Life is beautiful danger. From the danger of love, my mother had seven kids. If she had guarded herself against my father and his fervor, a singer would be missing from tonight's meeting." ~ Facundo Cabral
Years later, when you could Google someone, I looked him up. He was quite famous. He was a troubador with a cause.
[From Wikipedia: Cabral was born in La Plata, (Argentina) having begun as a singer in Tandil, 350 km from Buenos Aires. From the most humble of beginnings, he came to inspire millions around the world through his songs, poems and 66 books. He walked 3,000 km at the age of nine to look for work to support his mother and six siblings after his father abandoned them. When he left his mother told him "This is the second, and last gift I can give you. The first was to give you life, and the second one, the liberty to live it". He wrote music that inspired millions. He met Mother Teresa and Jorge Luis Borges. He performed in over 165 countries in eight different languages.]
It was fun to know that I had swapped songs with someone of his caliber, someone of his importance. It's cool to remember that I played on his big wide-necked Spanish guitar. When YouTube came around I listened to some of his songs. I loved his passion. He had lived through great adversity and still maintained his desire to make the world a better place through his songs. [From Wikipedia: His wife and one year-old daughter were killed in a plane crash in 1978. He was nearly blind and crippled, and was a cancer survivor as well. He once said Siempre le pregunto a Dios, ¿por qué a mí tanto me diste? Me diste miseria, hambre, felicidad, lucha, luces... vi todo. Sé que hay cáncer, sífilis y primavera, y buñuelos de manzana (I always ask God, why did you give me so much? You gave me misery, hunger, happiness, struggle, lights... I saw everything. I know there is cancer, syphilis and spring, and apple fritters). Cabral went into exile in Mexico during Argentina's 1976–1983 military dictatorship. His songs later turned more spiritual and he continued to fill concert halls across Latin America.]
It's not like I thought about him all the time. I wasn't star struck. But he was someone I admired from afar.
So when Barbara told Heidi me that Facundo was killed last summer, I was genuinely sad. Not sad like I lost a friend, he wouldn't have remembered me, but sad in the knowledge that the world lost a friend. I Googled him again and learned the story of his murder. It is still unclear why he was killed. Some accounts say that the target of the attack was Facundo's promoter. The car they were riding in was riddled with bullets, Facundo was shot at least eight times. The others in the car with Facundo escaped with their lives. He died on July 9, 2011.
[From Wikipedia: Bolivian authorities expressed their dismay at the death of the Argentine troubadour. Bolivian Minister of Culture Elizabeth Salguero said Cabral's death saddened her because "you can not understand that there are people who want to do much damage to a man who gave so much as a singer, composer, and poet." "He was a philosopher, a fighter for social justice, and to die that way is very painful."
The UN said in a statement: "The United Nations System in Guatemala strongly condemns the assassination of Argentine singer-songwriter Facundo Cabral and adds to the feeling of dismay and frustration of a Guatemalan society that looks beset by intolerable acts of violence. It is painfully ironic that the one who toured Latin America with a message of justice, peace and fraternity lost his life in the hands of a group of assassins. The UN expresses its solidarity with the families and loved ones of the troubadour, as well as the people of Argentina and Latin American that had Facundo as a reference for inspiration."
Guatemalan artists paid tribute to Facundo Cabral on Sunday, July 10, 2011. The Guatemalan artist guild called on all citizens to go Constitution Square to pay tribute to him. Armando Pineda, Alvaro Aguilar Alux Nahual and Rony Hernandez, Alejandro Arriaza, Gaby Andrade, and Manuel Rony were some of the artists who participated in this concert. In a letter to the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre the singer Ricardo Arjona wrote: "As a Guatemalan, I deeply regret the impact this news will generate among international opinion. As a friend and colleague, I will lament the absence of Facundo forever."]
Here are some early quotes that exemplify his character, his wit and wisdom.
- "I like the sun, Alice, and doves, a good cigar, a Spanish guitar, jumping walls, and opening windows, and when a woman cries. I like wine as much as flowers, and rabbits, but not tractors, homemade bread and Dolores' voice, and the sea wetting my feet. I like to always be lying on the sand, or chasing Manuela on a bicycle, or all the time to see the stars with Maria in the hayfield. I'm not from here, I'm not from there, I have no age, nor future, and being happy is my color of identity."
- "May God want for man to be able to be a child again to understand that he is mistaken if he thinks he can find happiness with a checkbook."
- "My poor boss thinks that I'm the poor one."
- "This is a new day to begin again, to look for the angel that appears in our dreams, to sing, to laugh, to be happy again. In this new day I will leave the mirror, and try to finally be a good man. I will walk with my face to the sun, and I will fly with the moon."
- "Forgive me Lord but sometimes I get tired of being a citizen. The city tires me, the offices, my family and the economy. Forgive me Lord, I am tired of this hell, this mediocre market where everyone has a price. Forgive me Lord but I will go with you through your mountains, your seas, and your rivers. Forgive me Lord but sometimes I think you have something better than this for me. Forgive me Lord, I don't want to be a citizen, I want to be a man, Lord, like you created me."
- "We are crossing through life on the train of death seeing how progress is putting an end to people."
- "And God created woman and she said 'My Lord, if Mary conceived without sin, couldn't I sin without conceiving?'"
- Highest Lord, don't worry about our daily bread because that is up to us, that's why we are men, but don't leave us without our nightly dream because without it we are nothing, we who are perhaps only a dream that you dream."
- "If I am a thief, it's because of private property."
The world is not the same without Facundo Cabral. It is not as beautiful, as clever, as full of life. And social justice is just that much more elusive.