b. Juan Valderrama Blanca, 24 May 1916, Torredelcampo, Jaén, Spain, d. 12 April 2004, Espartinas, Seville, Spain. Raised in rural Andalucia, Valderrama heard flamenco from childhood and in his early teens he was taken up by singer Niña de la Puebla, with whom he sang in Madrid in 1935. During the Spanish Civil War he performed for soldiers and also made records, later establishing himself on the flamenco scene. He composed some 300 songs, often in collaboration with his regular accompanist El Niño Ricardo; these included ‘De Polizón’ and ‘Madre Hermosa’. The song by which he is best remembered is ‘El Emigrante’, which he wrote in response to the fate of exiled Republicans after the civil war. He sang this in the similarly titled 1960 film and it was also used in La Guerra De Papá (1977). From the 50s Valderrama had appeared in a number of films, including El Rey De La Carretera (1956), El Emigrante (1960) and El Padre Coplillas (1968). Among the songs he sang in the latter film were ‘Grandeza Divina’, ‘Plegaria De Paz’, ‘Ruiseñores Del Alba’ and ‘Corazón A Corazón’.
Valderrama was noted for his maintenance of the traditions of flamenco, but he did much to keep flamenco in tune with young audiences. In 1983 he was awarded the Medalla al Mérito en el Trabajo and also in this decade and the next he was recognized throughout Spain for his services to flamenco. This led to accolades at Madrid’s Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in 1994, the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla in 1998, the Festival del Cante de Las Minas de La Unión in 2000, and at Teatro Alhambra de Granada in 2001.
From the mid-50s Valderrama formed an intimate relationship with singer Lolita Caballero (b. Dolores Abril) but he was unable to obtain a divorce from his first wife until more than 20 years later. Early in 2004, Valderrama appeared at a concert in Madrid that was given in his honour and which featured many noted artists. Soon afterwards, he suffered a heart attack and died during convalescence.