Jose Manuel Cerqueira Afonso dos Santos, commonly known as Jose Afonso or Zeca Afonso, was born on February 23, 1929, in Aveiro, Portugal. As a judge, his father was appointed to various posts throughout the Portuguese colonies in the first half of the 20th century. Jose spent his early years in countries such as Angola and Mozambique as well as Portugal, living with his parents off and on and spending many years in the city of Coimbra pursuing his education. He began singing in his teen years, which earned him special status at the University of Coimbra. Afonso became something of an icon among the older students, but his social status came at the expense of his schooling (he finally graduated in 1948 after two failed attempts). He married in secret that year due to his parents' disapproval. Shortly after the birth of his son Jose Manuel, Afonso released his debut record, though no copies remain. His marriage to Maria Amalia de Oliveira would produce two children and last only seven years. During this time Afonso began philosophy studies at the Associação Académica de Coimbra, graduating in 1955. His passion for philosophy and politics would shape the course of his recording career, which was formally initiated by his 1956 release, Fados de Coimbra.