Joaquín Sabina Bookmark and Share


12 February 1949

Joaquín Ramón Martínez Sabina was born in Úbeda as the second son of Adela Sabina del Campo and Jerónimo Martinez Gallego. His father was a policeman. At the age of 14 he started writing his firsts poems and composing music in a band called Merry Youngs which imitated singers such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. He studied high school with the Salesians of Don Bosco after which his father wanted him to follow his footsteps and become a police officer (in his song 'El Pirata Cojo' he recalls that), but, he refused saying that he preferred the guitar.

He entered the University of Philosophy and Philology of Granada studying Roman philosophy. In 1968 he got involved in the anti-Franco movement. After his father got a warrant for his arrest due to ties to the Spanish Communist Party he fled to London using a fake passport under the name Mariano Zugasti. In 1975, Sabina started writing songs and singing at local bars. In a local bar called ‘Mexicano-Taverna’ Sabina performed in the presence of George Harrison, who was celebrating his birthday. The ex-Beatle then gave Sabina a five-pound note as tip, which Sabina still preserves to this day. When Franco's dictatorship ended in 1975, Sabina returned to Spain and started performing in Spain. This attracted the attention of the small record label Movieplay that enabled him to release his first album ‘Inventario’ (Inventory) in 1978. Although not noteworthy in sales it did attract the attention of CBS where he released ‘Malas compañías’ (Bad Companies). This album gave Joaquín his first number-one hit single ‘Pongamos que hablo de Madrid' (Let's say I´m talking about Madrid) and wide recognition. Sabina released his third album ‘Ruleta Rusa’ (Russian Roulette) in 1983 and two years later, ‘Juez y parte’ (Judge and Side). His political views led him to take part in the anti-NATO movement.

In 1987 he released ‘Hotel, dulce hotel’ (Hotel, Sweet Hotel), which is still one of his best selling albums. In 1999 he released ‘19 días y 500 noches’ (19 Days and 500 Nights) which would turn out to be his last studio album for a long time. After heavy touring (and allegedly drug abuse) he suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2001 that endangered his life. He recovered in some weeks without suffering physical problems, but this incident affected his way of thinking, so he entered into a deep depression, which made him stay away from the stages for some years. His record company released the double album ‘Diario de un peatón’ (A Pedestrian's Log), which included both his last album and 12 new songs, along with a book illustrated by him. In 2008 Dutch film director Ramón Gieling creates the documentary ‘Sabina - 19 días y 500 noches’ about Sabina and especially his period just before and after the stroke. The movie shows the switch of character Sabina undergoes from a very hospitable person to a hermit. Sabina says: “We went out day and night, we drank everything, took all kinds of drugs, and it never occurred to us that we could ever die."

In 2005 Sabina returns to the limelight with ‘Alivio de luto’ (Mourning Relief). In 2007, he made a tour with Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat, called ‘Dos Pájaros de un Tiro’ (Two birds with one stone) which was later released on CD. In 2009 a new album sees the day.

On the web:

- Sabina's website: http://www.jsabina.com/default2.asp
- About Gieling's documentary: http://www.joaquinsabina.nl/index.html

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What do we think:

DB: Sabina is the a very poetic singer and even to Spanish people his lyrics can be somewhat of a mystery. He is a classic troubadour, latin style. Musically he goes from folk to more rockstyle music but he stays unmistakeble Spanish. Being from Madrid who has the strange effect on friends we have in Barcelona who think he is over-pretentious. But having said that they usually have some of his cd's somewhere in the collection. Like a person says in the documentary: "I think he is a dog but a still love his music". If you want an good introduction to Sabina's music you can try the 2004 compilation 'Todos hablan de ti' (Everybody's talking about you).

Recommend albums:

♪♪♪ - Malas compañías - 1980

♪♪ - Ruleta rusa - 1984

♪♪♪♪ - Hotel, dulce hotel - 1987

♪♪♪♪ - El hombre del traje gris - 1988

♪♪♪ - Mentiras piadosas - 1990

♪♪♪♪♪ - 19 días y 500 noches - 1999

♪♪♪ - Alivio de luto - 2005

♪♪♪♪ - Vinagre y rosas - 2009

Further listening: Inventario - 1978: La mandrágora - 1981; Joaquín Sabina y Viceversa en directo - 1986; Física y Química - 1992; Esta boca es mía - 1994; Yo, mi, me, contigo - 1996; Enemigos íntimos - 1998; Dímelo en la calle - 2002; Dos pájaros de un tiro - 2007 (with Serrat)

♪♪♪♪♪= outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided