Daniel Doroteo de los Santos Betancourt, also known as "El Jefe" ("The Boss") and "El Inquieto Anacobero" (5 February 1916 – 27 November 1992) born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, was a singer and composer of boleros, and an overall performer of multiple Caribbean music genres, such as guaracha, plena and rhumba.
Daniel Santos was born and raised with his three sisters in Trastalleres, a poor section of Santurce, in San Juan (Andy Montañez would later be raised just two streets from Santos' childhood house). He attended Las Palmitas Elementary School. Although he was doing well in school his father took him out of school when he was in the fourth grade and forced him to shine shoes because his family was facing a bad economic situation. In 1924, his family immigrated to New York City looking for a better way of life. When his parents enrolled him in school, he had to start from the first grade again because he did not know enough English. Santos joined his high school's choir but he dropped out of high school in his second year and moved out of his parents apartment.
Santos moved into a small low rent apartment; here, one day, while he was taking a shower, he started to sing "Te Quiero, Dijiste" (You said I Love You). A member of the Trio Lirico was passing by and heard him sing, he then knocked on Santos' door. The trio member invited Daniel to join the trio and he accepted. Santos debuted with them on September 13, 1930, he sang in various social events and was paid a dollar for every song that he sang
Santos struggled while living on his own in New York. In one occasion, he was stabbed once by a loan shark who lent him USD$52.00 and demanded payment soon after. When he recovered from the stab wound he made sure to find the loaner and hit him with a lead pipe, quote, "Fifty-two times. And I counted them!".
Santos joins Pedro Flores
In 1938, Santos was working at the Cuban Casino Cabaret in Manhattan. He did a little bit of everything, from singing to being the master of ceremonies to waiting on tables. On one occasion, he was singing "Amor Perdido" (Love Lost), without knowing that the composer of the song Pedro Flores was in the audience. Flores liked what he heard so much that he invited Santos to join his group "El Cuarteto Flores" which also included Myrta Silva and in the future would also include Pedro Ortiz Davila "Davilita".
Santos recorded many songs with the Cuarteto Flores and started to gain fame. Among songs that he recorded were:
* "Perdon" (I'm Sorry),
* "Amor" (Love),
* "El Ultimo Adios" (The Last Good-bye),
* "Borracho no Vale" (Being Drunk don't Count) and many others.
In 1941, due to Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States, most young Puerto Ricans were being drafted into the United States Army. Santos recorded "Despedida" (My Good-bye), a strongly emotional farewell song written by Flores from the viewpoint of an Army recruit who had to leave behind his girlfriend and his ailing mother. The song became an instant hit. Santos recalled in an interview once that he had to hold back tears while recording the song, since his draft papers had just arrived and he would soon have to live a situation similar to what the song's lyrics described, but that a friend started mocking him at the control booth, to which he decided to curse him on the spot, trading the word mama'o (an expletive in Puerto Rican Spanish) for mamá (mother). This incident produced two mannerisms that Santos eventually adopted in his singing style: chopped delivery (almost syllable by syllable, as suggested by Flores) and stretched last vowel in the last verse of each stanza, in almost every song he recorded afterwards.
In 1942, before Santos was drafted and sent to fight in World War II, he recorded his greatest hit "Linda", written specially for him by Flores after a former Dominican girlfriend of Santos', and sang for a while with Xavier Cugat's orchestra. He was later stationed in Okinawa and South Korea, where he had to defend himself constantly from racial attacks from fellow battalion members.
After returning from the war, and partly because of the prejudice he experienced within the Army ranks, Daniel became active in the Puerto Rican Independence Movement and identified himself with the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and its president Pedro Albizu Campos. His devotion for Albizu lasted all through his life, to the point of commissioning, later in his life, a full-sized statue of Albizu for his Florida estate.
Together with Davilita, he recorded "Patriotas" (Patriots) and "La Lucha por la Independencia de Puerto Rico" (The Fight for Puerto Rico's Independence) which was adopted from one of Juan Antonio Corretjer's poems. Santos called for Puerto Rico's independence through his music and as a consequence of his actions, he had problems with the FBI and the United States State Department whenever he wanted to travel abroad.
In the 1950s Santos traveled between Cuba and New York making presentations. He composed the song "Sierra Maestra", which Fidel Castro adopted as the official hymn of the movement of July 26 and which was always transmitted through "Radio Rebelde" (Rebel Radio) every morning. Santos continued to perform in Cuba even after Castro and his men overthrew Cuba's president Fulgencio Batista. However, when he heard that Castro was planning to train children for the military, Santos became disillusioned and left Cuba for good. During that same decade Daniel composed:
* "El Columpio de la Vida" (The Swing of Life),
* "El Preso" (The Prisoner) and
* "Bello Amor" (Beautiful Love) as well as 400 other compositions.
Santos was in a bad economical and emotional state after he left Cuba. He was invited to sing for the Sonora Matancera, which was contracted to work in "Radio Progreso". His luck improved, and he again gained fame and fortune. However, Santos spent most of his earnings on alcohol and women. He had 12 children and had been married 12 times. He made sure that he didn't marry a Puerto Rican woman, quote-unquote, "because I fear them, man!" (near the end of his life he did marry a Puerto Rican, Ana Rivera, who eventually became his companion in old age through one of his longer marriages and eventually his widow). He had also spent time in jail in Cuba, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
During the last years of his life, Santos toured the United States and Latin-America to sell-out crowds.
Daniel Santos died on November 27, 1992 at his ranch, "Anacobero's Ranch", in Ocala, Florida. He is buried at what is virtually Puerto Rico's national pantheon, the Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzis cemetery in Old San Juan, physically close to Pedro Albizu Campos and Pedro Flores. Due to the scarcity of empty space in the cemetery, when fellow Puerto Rican singer Yayo El Indio died, he was also buried in Santos' tomb.