José Afonso
José Afonso

José Afonso

About José Afonso

Jose Afonso is generally regarded as one of Portugal's most influential folk musicians of the 20th century. His songs of protest and political critiques helped fuel revolutionary movements launched by the people of Portugal in the early '70s, and his music remained sharply critical and politically charged as he actively recorded and performed until just before his death in 1987. In a relatively short amount of time, Afonso was quite productive, leaving behind documents of revolution and righteous struggle such as his 1975 album República and many others.
Afonso was born Jose Manuel Cerqueira Afonso dos Santos on February 23, 1929, in Aveiro, Portugal. As a judge, his father was appointed to various posts throughout the Portuguese colonies in the first half of the 20th century. Jose spent his early years in countries such as Angola and Mozambique as well as Portugal, living with his parents off and on and spending many years in the city of Coimbra pursuing his education. He began singing in his teen years, and in 1953, released his first recordings in the form of two 78 singles. During this time, Afonso began studying philosophy at the Associação Académica de Coimbra, graduating in 1955. His passion for philosophy and politics would shape the course of his recording career, and he stayed active making music while working as a public school teacher through the late '50s and into the '60s. Smaller-scale releases like his 1956 EP Fados de Coimbra grew into more fully realized works with the release of his first studio LP, Baladas e Canções, in 1964.
In 1967 Afonso signed with the Orfeu label, which agreed to pay him a set amount each month provided that he record one album per year, an arrangement that would produce nearly three-quarters of his discography. He was prolific throughout the '70s -- above and beyond the terms of his contract, sometimes releasing multiple albums in a single year. Afonso's work in this time included vibrant sets like 1974's Coro Dos Tribunais and 1975's República. Afonso's political activism informed his songwriting, and his music would play a pivotal role in anti-dictatorial resistance movements happening in Portugal throughout the '70s. By 1978 he was viewed more as a revolutionary figure than a musician, performing at rallies and making records comprised entirely of political critiques. In 1981 Afonso was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His last recording, Galinhas do Mato, found him too weak to sing his own compositions, drawing instead on Portuguese recording stars like Luis Represas and José Mário Branco to sing for him. Jose Afonso died in February of 1987, his funeral attended by more than 30,000 people. His compositions continued to inspire and excite long after his death, and Afonso is considered one of the most important protest singers in Portugal's history. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez

  • HOMETOWN
    Aveiro, Portugal
  • BORN
    August 2, 1929