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Camarón de la Isla

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San Fernando, Cádiz, Spain (1950 – 1992)

Camarón de la Isla (born December 5, 1950, San Fernando, Cádiz, Spain; died July 2, 1992, Badalona, Spain), was the stage name of José Monje Cruz (who is sometimes also credited as José Monge Cruz).

His uncle José nicknamed him Camarón (Spanish for “Shrimp”) because he was blonde haired and fair skinned. At the age of eight he began to sing at inns and bus stops with Rancapino to earn money. At fourteen he appeared in the film “El Amor Brujo” with Antonio Gades. Two years later he won first prize in the Festival del Cante Jondo in Mairena de Alcor. Camarón then went to Madrid with Miguel De Los Reyes and in 1968 became a resident artist at the Torres Bermejas Tablao, where he remained for twelve years.

It was there that he met Paco de Lucía with whom he would record nine albums between 1969 and 1977. The two would tour extensively together during this period. As Paco de Lucía became more occupied with solo concert commitments, Camarón would work with one of Paco’s students, Tomatito, also one of the important figures in modern flamenco guitar.

At the age of 23 Camarón married Dolores Montoya, a gypsy girl from La Línea de La Concepción who he nicknamed “La Chispa” (The Spark). At the time La Chispa was only fourteen. Shortly afterwards the couple had two children, and were eventually to have a total of four.

Many consider Camarón to be the single most popular and influential flamenco “” (singer) of the modern period. Although his work brought criticism from some traditionalists, he was one of the first to feature an electric bass in his songs. This was a turning point in the history of Flamenco music that helped distinguish .

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