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Revisit: Deep Heart: Roots, Rock & the Music of Carlos Vives



On November 13, 2017, the GRAMMY Museum opened Deep Heart: Roots, Rock & the Music of Carlos Vives, an exhibit that offered visitors an in-depth look at the iconic career of the two-time GRAMMY-winning and 11-time Latin GRAMMY-winning Colombian singer-songwriter who pioneered the integration of the indigenous and vallenato sounds of his country into popular music.

Inarguably, Carlos Vives has a refined ability to merge the traditional with the modern. The GRAMMY- and Latin GRAMMY Award-winning artist is a renowned musician, songwriter, and actor. His approach to taking traditional Colombian vallenato music and reviving it with pop and rock elements has taken the genre and expanded it to an international audience. Born in Colombia to a doctor and homemaker, Vives was involved in music from a young age. He participated actively in the local music scene while growing up, and began to work as a professional musician by age 18. Pursuing a career as an actor, Vives then resorted back to music after playing the role of vallenato composer Rafael Escalona in the telenovela “Escalona.” With the inspirational role propelling his music career, Vives’ interpretation of vallenato music into pop hits has led to the success of his albums. Works like Clásicos de La Provincia went triple platinum in 1995, and La Tierra de Olvido went platinum in Latin America and Europe. A two-time GRAMMY and 11-time Latin GRAMMY winner, Vives’ legacy has allowed for the music of rural people to be recognized and respected in the mainstream as he continues to be one of Latin America’s most acclaimed artists.

Carlos Vives’ Early Years

Carlos Vives’ entertainment career began with acting. In 1991, Vives starred in Escalona, a telenovela depicting the life of Colombian vallenato musician Rafael Escalona. Escalona was Vives’ first acting role that also required him to sing. The Escalona soundtrack features original songs by Escalona, and was the first collaboration between Vives and the band La Provincia. The telenovela and its soundtrack became mainstream favorites in Colombia, turning Vives and La Provincia into household names. Escalona changed Vives’ life, and he credits the opportunity with launching his singing career on a larger scale. Vives earned numerous awards for his musical performance in the series.

In 1994, Carlos Vives released his sixth studio album, Clásicos de la Provincia. The album marked Vives’ transition to the vallenato sound that made him a worldwide sensation. The album’s most successful single was a cover of Emiliano Zuleta’s 1938 vallenato song, “La Gota Fría,” which spent 13 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Clásicos de la Provincia sold more than 1.5 million copies and won the Billboard Latin Music Award for Best Album. Vives’ next two albums saw similar success, and he began to garner attention in the United States. His seventh album, Tierra del Olvido (1995), went triple platinum and peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Tropical Albums chart. Tengo Fe (1997), which incorporated vallenato, cumbia, and bambuco sounds, spent 19 weeks on the Top Latin Album charts. In 2002, Carlos Vives became the first Colombian artist to win a GRAMMY Award when his tenth studio album, Déjame Entrar, earned Best Traditional Tropical Album at the 44th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

El Rock de Mi Pueblo

Carlos Vives’ eleventh studio album took him on a new, modern vallenato route. Released on Aug. 31, 2004, El Rock de Mi Pueblo is folk-based with a modern blues and rock twist that is unlike Vives’ prior recordings. Five-time GRAMMY and 11-time Latin GRAMMY winner Sebastian Krys produced the album alongside Emilio Estefan. Billboard called the album “enticingly adventuresome.” The lead single, “Como Tu,” is pure rhythmic excitement, while “Voy a Olvidarme de Mi” is a unique, romantic ballad with a raw edge. El Rock de Mi Pueblo spent 50 weeks on the U.S. Tropical Albums chart, peaking at No.2, and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Just three years after Vives’ first GRAMMY win, El Rock de Mi Pueblo won Best Contemporary Tropical Album at the 6th Annual Latin GRAMMYs.

Jacket, embellished by Carlos Vives, c.2004

Carlos Vives, a visual artist as well as a musician, added colorful knitted decorations to various articles of clothing during the El Rock de Mi Pueblo era. His craftsmanship is a direct reflection of the vibrancy and emotion captured in his music. Carlos Vives used colored yarn, patches, seashells, cowhide, enamel pins, denim, beads, sea glass, ceramic tiles, velvet, and soda can tabs to decorate this jacket. Vives wore this jacket for photo shoots and live performances in support of the 2004 album.

Yamaha acoustic guitar, embellished by Carlos Vives, c.2004

Carlos Vives hand-decorated this guitar, which was pictured on the cover of his 2004 album, El Rock de Mi Pueblo. Vives used paint, wood sticks, sea glass, seashells, fabric patches, bottle caps, artificial flowers, and stickers to adorn every surface of his guitar.

Accordion, embellished by Carlos Vives, c.2004

Accordion player Egidio Cuadrado developed a friendship with Carlos Vives during their days performing together on the Colombian telenovela, Escalona. Cuadrado has performed with Vives ever since. Vives decorated this accordion to match the aesthetic of El Rock de Mi Pueblo.

Corazón Profundo and VIVES

Carlos Vives began a new era of music and television in 2012, when he joined the cast of The Voice Colombia as a coach. The following year, Vives released his first new album in nine years, Corazón Profundo. The first single, “Volvi a Nacer,” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Pop Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts. Brazilian musician Michel Telo is featured on the album’s second single, “Como Le Gusta a Tu Cuerpo,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart. In its first week of release, the album sold more than 200,000 copies and was certified diamond in Colombia, receiving positive reviews from critics.

Carlos Vives found himself with two more GRAMMY Awards for his 14th release, Más + Corazón Profundo. The album won Best Contemporary Tropical Album at the 15th Annual Latin GRAMMYs, and Best Tropical Latin Album at the 57th Annual GRAMMYs in 2015. The album features duets with ChocQuibTown on “El Amor de Sus Ojos” and Marc Anthony on “Cuando Nos Volvamos a Encontrar.” The duet with Anthony won a Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Tropical Song and peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Songs chart. In 2015, a live version of the album titled Mas + Corazon Profundo En Vivo De La Bahia De Santa Marta was released as a two-disc set.

On Nov. 10, 2017, Vives released his 15th studio album titled VIVES. The first single, “La Bicicleta,” is a duet with fellow Colombian artist, Shakira. The track earned Song Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs in 2016. Vives described “La Bicicleta” as “a song that carries the vallenato spirit with an urban touch.” VIVES features 18 songs that the singer-songwriter describes as urban rhythms with messages of social interest.

Outfit, Carlos Vives, 2016

In 2016, Carlos Vives produced an historic concert titled “Carlos Vives + Amigos” at the El CampÍn Stadium in Bogotá. The concert featured guest appearances from Fonseca, Wisin, Daddy Yankee, Maluma, Fanny Lú, and more. The concert was eventually released as a CD and DVD. Vives wore this outfit in celebration of the country’s musical heritage.

Outfit and Handwritten Lyrics, “La Bicicleta,” 2016

Carlos Vives co-wrote “La Bicicleta” as a duet with Shakira, his longtime friend and fellow Colombian singer. The song combines pop and reggaeton with cumbia and vallenato, two musical styles native to Colombia. The lyrics are full of nostalgia, as both artists sing about biking through their Colombian hometowns, Santa Marta and Barranquilla. This outfit was worn by Carlos Vives in the music video for “La Bicicleta.” Throughout the video, Vives and Shakira ride bikes through the streets of Colombia, play soccer, and dance with the locals.