20 August 1937
19 June 2007 (aged 69)
José Luis Cantero, (August 20, 1937, June 19, 2007), known professionally as El Fary, was a Spanish singer and actor.
The youngest of six children, Cantero was born into a humble family in Las Ventas neighbourhood of Madrid, close to a famous bullring. As a boy he would play truant from school, preferring to spend time imitating his idol, the traditional copla singer Rafael Farina. It was from Farina that Cantero adopted his stage name of "El Fary". Resolute that his lack of height would not stand in the way of success he was determined that his dream of following in his idol's footsteps would one day come true.
Before hitting the big time El Fary worked hard as a gardener and a taxi driver in order to make the money to record his first songs. Once he had recorded and pressed these songs - rumour has it - he sold them to the public himself from a stall in the Rastro (Madrid's weekly street market). At this time he also took part in singing contests on the radio and performed at local fiestas. Only when he was in his early thirties did El Fary start to make money as a singer when he was called to stand in for another singer at a show in Córdoba, Andalusia. Later, the legendary Antonio Molina hired him for a two-month tour.
By the 1970s the copla had fallen from favour with the Spanish record-buying public, but this did not dampen El Fary's enthusiasm and by the end of the decade he was recording poppier songs that found a home in the Spanish hit parade.
In the 1990s El Fary got his break in the world of television where he starred in the show "Menudo es mi padre" as a taxi driver - a role tailor-made for him. The show's title was itself a play on words poking fun at the protagonist's minuscule stature.
During this period El Fary was often the subject of speculation due to rumours of his son's drug addiction or his own alleged mistreatment of his wife. While evidently unpleasant experiences for the man, this sensationalist focus on his private life kept him in the public consciouness of Spaniards for quite some time.
Towards the end of the decade his career was given another boost when film director Santiago Segura premiered his comedy film Torrente - The Dumb Arm of the Law. The protagonist, Jose Luis Torrente (played by Segura himself) was a rude, racist, misogynist, corrupt policeman who was a fan of El Fary. The film featured a new song recorded especially by El Fary himself called Apatrullando la ciudad (Patrolling The City). Both the song and the film were hits, and spawned two sequels, the first of which - Torrente 2 - Mission in Marbella - became the most successful Spanish film (in Spain) of all time (on its release).
With the release of the third Torrente film in 2005 - Torrente 3 - The Protector - a unique piece of El Fary-related spin-off merchandising was produced: the Carrofary - a small rubber replica of the singer designed to be hung from a car's rear view mirror.
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