From the mid 1960’s to the present day, Ramón Cordero’s high, plaintive voice has been one of the most distinctive in bachata. During the 1970s and 1980s he was also one of the genre’s most successful artists. Many of his songs, characterized by unusually good production quality and the arrangements of some of bachata’s most virtuoso guitar players, have become classics.
Mexican singers like Antonio Aguilar and Pedro Infante had a great deal of influence on Cordero, and he recorded many of their songs as bachatas. He has also at times recorded rancheras in their original 2/4 or 3/4 time (as opposed to bachata’s standard 4/4 bolero arrangement), but adding to them bachata’s rhythmic almost percussive style of guitar accompaniment. A good example of Cordero’s hybrid ranchera-bachata style is “Yo la recuerdo”, which he recorded with Paredes. Other songs were culled from Puerto Rican jíbaro music or baladas like “Condenado a la distancia”. These songs, many of them Mexican, which he recorded in the 1970s with Edilio Paredes playing the lead guitar— songs like “Vuela paloma”, “Entre copa y copa” and “Las nieves de enero”— remain the trademark and mainstay of his repertoire.
The name most linked to Ramon Cordero’s is that of Edilio Paredes, who grew up with him in the campo of San Felipe, near San Francisco de Macoris. Ramon and Edilio began playing together in the countryside, and when Paredes traveled to the capital, Santo Domingo, Ramon soon followed. The two sang as a duo on one of Cordero’s most successful early recordings, “Yo la recuerdo”, recorded on Cuco Valoy’s label in 1966. After Cordero had released several recordings with Casa Alegre, Bienvenido Ortiz’ label, Paredes helped him to get a job at CMV Records, Cuco Valoy’s music store, and they began recording together for Valoy. Ramón Cordero went on to record some of the most cherished bachatas of the next two decades, among them the song which came to be his anthem and Edilio Paredes’ hallmark as a guitarist, “Amor del bueno” (1974). The song "Amor del bueno" is featured on iASO's "Bachata Roja" compilation.
Paredes’ virtuoso arrangements have made Cordero’s repertoire one of bachata’s most difficult to master. For this reason, Cordero has at one time or another been accompanied by some of the Dominican Republic’s finest guitarists, including Augusto Santos, Frank Mendez, Virgilio de la Cruz and Mártires de León. Apart from accompanying him in live performances, where his agility qualified him as one of the few musicians who were able to play Cordero’s music as it was originally recorded, Santos and Cordero formed the duo “Los Inimitables”. Their collaboration resulted in some of the most memorable vocal duets in bachata history, among them ”Con golpes de pecho” and “Negra ¿porque me dejaste?”. Augusto Santo also recorded the lead guitar on the 1967 single “La causa de mi muerte”, one of Cordero’s best-loved songs.
Bachata was changed forever by the all-important introduction of the electric guitar by Blas Durán in 1987. While a new generation of bachateros began to acquire an international fame undreamed of by their predecessors, bachateros like Ramón Cordero, who continued to record and perform with acoustic instruments, continued performing for mostly local audiences. During the 1990s, though, the virtuoso playing and high production values of Cordero’s work attracted the attention of fellow musicians, even masters of the contemporary electric style, like Martires De León, who recorded the lead guitar on Cordero’s extremely successful CD “Manantial de amor”.
Because of his perfectly tuned voice and his instinctive feel for singing, Cordero has also been sought out in recent years as a vocal director for studios like ENCA and ENFI in Santo Domingo. The duets of Monchy and Alexandra are the best known example of the high quality of Cordero’s work as a director.
Cordero is now working to revive and internationalize classic acoustic bachata. Together with El Chivo Sin Ley, Edilio Paredes and Joan Soriano, he has formed The Bachata Roja Legends band, which in the summer of 2008 completed a series of high profile performances across the USA. A European tour is planned, as is a new album release from iASO in 2009.
-- David Wayne