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Spinetta

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Biography

Spinetta -- full name Luis Alberto Spinetta -- was one of the most important and influential figures in the development of rock music in Argentina. Renowned for his poetic lyrics, Spinetta emerged as a voice of rock & roll rebellion during a time of intense social unrest, couching taboo social and political commentary in subtle metaphors that often incurred the wrath of the Argentine government. Taking the Beatles -- and John Lennon in particular -- as his musical foundation, Spinetta added his own South American hippie sensibility early on, eventually branching out into more progressive, elaborate compositions steeped in jazz harmony. He continued recording all the way into the new millennium, remaining a well-respected figure in his home country. Spinetta was born January 23, 1950, in Buenos Aires, and grew up in the Belgrano district; he began singing and playing guitar at a young age, making his television debut at age 14. Charged by his first encounter with the Beatles, the 17-year-old Spinetta formed a band called Almendra in 1967. Their 1969 debut album, Almendra I, essentially wrote the first important chapter of the history of Argentine rock, producing a huge hit in the Spinetta composition "Muchacha (Ojos de Papel)." After the 1970 follow-up, Almendra II, the group splintered, and Spinetta recorded a guest-laden solo project, La Busqueda de la Estrella, credited to Spinettalandia y Sus Amigos. In 1972, Spinetta formed a new group called Pescado Rabioso (Rabid Fish), a more aggressive rock outfit influenced by psychedelia and electric blues-rock that produced some of his most groundbreaking work. The group recorded three albums over the socially turbulent 1972-1973 period (the last, the acclaimed Artaud, was essentially a Spinetta solo album). In late 1973, Spinetta disbanded Pescado Rabioso and formed a new group, Invisible, which marked a partial return to acoustic instruments and saw him beginning to incorporate jazz into his compositions. Additionally, his songwriting voice was growing more provocative, and many Invisible songs came to be touchstones of the politically repressive times (indeed, both band and fans were sometimes jailed after performances). As a subtle form of protest, Spinetta's albums often featured artwork by acquaintances who disappeared under the Argentine dictatorship. After three albums from 1974-1976 with Invisible, Spinetta stepped out under his own name on 1977's A 18 del Sol, forming a new backing band that entered full-fledged jazz-rock territory. For the follow-up, he traveled to the U.S. in 1979 and recorded Only Love Can Sustain, an uncharacteristic album of jazzy, slickly produced soft pop he has since disavowed. Returning to Argentina, Spinetta briefly reunited Almendra before forming a new group, Spinetta Jade, his most musically progressive project to date. Four albums followed from 1980-1984, as well as a couple of solo platters. With the return of democracy to Argentina in the mid-'80s, Spinetta went solo once again and recorded prolifically from 1986-1991, including an aborted project with Charly García and a more successful collaboration with the young Fito Paez. Aside from the 1993 film soundtrack Fuego Gris, Spinetta remained silent for some time; his marriage dissolved in 1996, and he was romantically linked to model Carolina Peleretti. He finally returned in 1997 with a stripped-down -- yet still musically progressive -- group, Los Socios del Desierto (The Partners of the Desert); they released a self-titled debut and an MTV Unplugged installment that year. San Cristóforo followed in 1998, as did the introspective Los Ojos in 1999. The solo project Silver Sorgo, featuring commentary on the Argentine economic crisis, was released in 2001, earning Spinetta two Latin Grammy nominations (Best Solo Rock Album and Best Rock Song, the latter for "El Enemigo"). Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011, Spinetta died at his home in Buenos Aires on February 8, 2012. ~ Steve Huey

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