Skip to comments.
CELIA CRUZ, THE QUEEN OF LATIN MUSIC
EUROPE JAZZ NETWORK
| EUROPE JAZZ NETWORK
Posted on 07/22/2003 7:02:16 PM PDT by Dqban22
Europe Jazz Network MUSICIANS CELIA CRUZ Voice
The Queen of Latin Music
She commands her realm with a down-to-earth dignity unmistakably vibrant in her wide smile and striking poise. The strong life force flows from her center traveling through her hands. Her assurance defines her posture. Her voice propels power. She is Celia Cruz.
The renowned Queen of Latin Music has traveled her four corners of the earth delivering her message of joy to life. Her more than 50 recorded albums are tribute to her talent, energy and perseverance. Her fans span four generations breaking down racial, and cultural barriers. Her collaborations include an eclectic list of musicians from Tito Puente to David Byrne. While her style of Latin music vocalization has been compared to the scatting of Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald.
The timeless magic of this extraordinary performer has won her global recognition, numerous tributes, a Yale University doctorate, the admiration of her peers, a Hollywood star, a Grammy, a statue in the famous Hollywood wax museum, movie and theater appearances, the key to numerous cities, and the key to the hearts of music lovers everywhere.
In a field so powerfully dominated by male crooners and musicians alike, Celia Cruz shines like a precious, polished diamond. Born in the humble town of Santo Suarez in Habana, Cuba, she was one of 14 children. Her mother however, knew that this was a special child telling Celia that she earned her first pair of shoes by singing to a tourist who bought them for her.
At home, Celia's chores included singing the younger children to sleep. Yet, like the pied piper, the adults would gather to listen, annoying the young songbird who would close the door on them confusing their admiration for surveillance.
Since then, those shoes have been prophetic in taking the vocalist around the globe and into the most prestigious music and concert halls.
As a teenager, she began singing in school programs and community gatherings. Her aunt would periodically take her and her cousin to cabarets and nightclubs where the impressionably talented songsters got a first-hand view of the local talent. Yet, while her family supported her musical abilities, her father encouraged her to continue her studies and become a schoolteacher. However, it was one of her own professors who told her to take a chance with music because "You could earn in one day what it takes me a year to make."
Celia Cruz began entering the local radio talent shows winning fancy cakes and more opportunities to compete and sing with the popular orchestras of the time. Her big chance came in 1950 when the regular singer with Cuba's popular Sonora Matancera returned to her native Puerto Rico and the band took on an unknown and slightly rough around the edges Celia Cruz.
Singing with Cuba's La Sonora Matancera was tantamount to singing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The popular group was known and loved throughout the country. Consequently, the public was not used to unknowns trying their talents with the greats, and so it did not fare well for Celia at the very beginning. The public began to call the radio station complaining about the young singer. Executives in the industry also did not believe that female singers could sell albums. But the band believed in Celia. She had the feeling, the timing, and the inspiration. She had swing.
Her perseverance overcame the obstacles, and Celia eventually became permanent "featured added attraction" of La Sonora Mantacera travelling extensively throughout Latin America and Mexico with the orchestra while accompained by a chaperone. Her golden era with the La Sonora spanned fifteen years where she and the band became known as "Cafe con Leche" (coffee with milk).
By 1960, Celia Cruz left Cuba permanently to pursue a career in the States. She became a permanent citizen by 1961 with a contract to perform in the Hollywood Palladium. It was during this time that she fell in love with the tall, dark and dashingly handsome first trumpet of the orchestra. His was the first friendly face she grew to search for. He was attentive, caring about her feeling toward the arrangements, the timing and the music. And for Celia, he was truly her knight in shining armor. Celia Cruz and Pedro Knight married in 1962. By 1965, he decided to step back from his own career to manage the wife he adored.
"Afro-Cuban music is the root of today's Salsa", Celia states. "It is steeped in cultural indentity and embraces the folklore of every town and province of the tropics. It is a source of pride, of happiness, of being alive. It is what I bring to the people."
She combined forces with Tito Puente in 1966 recording eight albums with him for Tico Records. However, the power of these two great musical legends was too much for the public to handle and record sales did not reach the music peak that these two giants inspired.
Celia Cruz signed with the Vaya label (a subsidiary label of Fania Records), eventually teamed up with Larry Harlow accomplished pianist and band leader who wrote the tune "Gracia Divina", for the Latin music operetta, "Hommy" (adapted from the Who's rock opera "Tommy").
It was 1973. Young Latinos in New York hungered for identity; for roots and for heroes. They discovered Celia Cruz.
She burst unto the Carnegie Hall stage wrapped in the flamboyant costuming that has now become her signature style. She belted out the tune, divinely gracing the public with the harbinger of her own ascendancy while driving the crowd into a united, unprecendented rolling wave of human enthusiasm. She was electrified, revitalized. She was back.
By 1974, Celia was riding a high tide of success. She hit the market hard with a concept album where she teamed with Johnny Pacheco. His love of Afro-Cuban and charange rhythms made him an innovator in producing updated arrangements of classic tunes. The LP, Celia and Johnny went gold. "Salsa" was re-born and Celia was on her way to becoming its most shining star.
After two more record-breaking hits with Pacheco, Celia was featured with the Fania All-Stars, a star studded ensemble composed of band leaders signed with the label.
She traveled on international tours with the group that covered London, England, Cannes, France and Zaire, Africa. She has travelled all of Latin America with a recent first time visit to São Paulo and Brasilia in Brazil. She has recorded some twenty gold LPs and more than 100 awards from various countries' institutions, magazines and newspapers. She appeared in a special segment of the Grammies in 1987 where she performed with her old time collaborator, Tito Puente.
Celia carved out her niche in the '80s on the strength of many other collaborations joining forces with young and elders, cutting anniversary recording with her first associates, La Sonora Matancera while appearing in movies such as "Salsa", and in 1992 in the Hollywood feature film, "The Mambo Kings". Her voice can be heard on the soundtracks of such films as "Something Wild" and "Invasion U.S.A.".
Notwithstanding the music's 20 year on-again off-again romance with American publics, Celia Cruz has survived the musical droughts and intends to keep on singing until her very last note. She has managed to capture the attention of the American press who, not having a point of reference for comparison, insists on equating the inimitable Celia Cruz to jazz greats trying to similarities between the Latin "soneo" (phrasing) and the jazz scat.
Celia's style is incomparable. Rhymed/timed, rapid fire staccato bits of witty wisdom, social commentary and general observations in tune to tunes, are not easily attained by even the best of contemporary song stylists. Celia Cruz cut her teeth on the music that has moved the world and she has in the process carved out a special niche reserved only for her. "Azucar" is her calling card and sugar is what she sprinkles over her audiences wherever she goes. She is a monumental figure in a musical form reserved once only for men.
She has seen the music grow from small, scattered areas in shops where flamingo music was sold next to Xavier Cugat records to the special sections now marked "Salsa". Despite her vast success, Celia Cruz remains a humble servant of God, wanting only simple pleasures in life. She recently confided that her ultimate wish is not a fancy car or mansion, or even her own lear jet. What Celia most wishes for is to be able to return to her native Cuba to visit her mother's grave.
"Music is the only gift I have that was given to me by God. Unless He takes it away, I will continue to share my gift with everyone. It is what gives me pleasure. It is what brings me happiness. And that is my purpose in life. In a sense, I have fulfilled my father's wish to be a teacher as, through my music I teach generations of people about my culture and the happiness that can be found in just living life. As a performer, I want people to feel their hearts sing and their spirits soar."
Biography courtesy of Duende Management.
KEYWORDS: afrocubanmusic; cuba; music; salsa
posted on 07/22/2003 7:02:16 PM PDT
More than 75,000 mourn salsa artist Celia Cruz in Miami
JOHN PAIN, Associated Press Writer
Saturday, July 19, 2003
©2003 Associated Press
(07-19) 20:29 PDT MIAMI (AP) --
Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets Saturday to pay their respects to salsa legend and Cuban exile Celia Cruz, weeping at her casket but also celebrating her music and shouting her trademark phrase, "Azucar!"
"This is Celia's day. She is the personification of Cuba, the free Cuba and the future Cuba," said Roly More, grandson of singer Benny More.
The number of people paying their respects Saturday was estimated at more than 75,000. The line stretched for 15 blocks at one point for the viewing at the Freedom Tower -- the Ellis Island of the Cuban community, where immigration officials processed more than 500,000 Cubans who fled Fidel Castro's government in the 1960s.
Later, at Cruz's funeral Mass, family members, friends and fans remembered her engaging personality and energetic performing style. Singer Gloria Estefan, one of several featured speakers at the two-hour service, promised that "Celia will always live on."
Cruz, 78, who recorded more than 70 albums, died Wednesday of a brain tumor at her home in Fort Lee, N.J.
She won best salsa album for "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" at last year's Latin Grammy Awards, and won the same award at this year's Grammys. Her other best-known recordings include "Yerberito Moderno" and "Que le Den Candela."
Many mourners held roses, some waved Cuban flags and most tried to shield themselves from the sun with umbrellas or floppy hats in the Cuban national colors of red, white and blue. Many yelled Cruz's catch phrase "Azucar!" or sugar.
Among those in line was Nila Alvarez, 68, who said she first met Cruz in Havana, where the singer thrilled nightclub crowds in the 1950s.
"She was always an idol, as a person and as an artist," Alvarez said.
While there was much weeping at Cruz's open casket, whenever the mood became too somber inside the tower people erupted in cheers, chanting "Celia, Celia." They clapped their hands to her music, blaring through speakers.
The casket was surrounded by white and purple flowers, as well as American and Cuban flags. On one side, Cruz's husband, trumpeter Pedro Knight, stood dressed in black with other family and friends.
Even after nine hours of public viewing, several thousand people were left unable to view the body when the doors to the Freedom Tower were closed to prepare for the procession to Gesu Catholic Church, where a memorial Mass was celebrated Saturday night.
Cruz's casket, wrapped in a Cuban flag, was loaded onto a limousine led by men in white shirts carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. Onlookers tossed roses at the slow-moving procession as Cruz's family and friends walked behind the limousine.
Mourners included Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Latin music star Carlos Vives and Latin TV talk show host Cristina Saralegui.
Across the street at the Estefans' Bongo's restaurant, celebrities and political and business leaders waiting for the procession ate sandwiches and croquettes as they remembered Cruz's influential 50-year career.
"She's inspired everyone in this room," said Jorge Moreno, a Miami-based Latin pop singer who performed with Cruz. "I always looked at her like a grandmother."
Cruz came to the United States in 1960, a year after the Cuban revolution. She became so popular in Miami that Calle Ocho, the main street running through the city's Cuban community, has the honorary name of Celia Cruz Way.
Cruz's body was to be returned to New York on Sunday. On Tuesday, a funeral Mass was set for St. Patrick's Cathedral.
©2003 Associated Press
posted on 07/22/2003 7:08:00 PM PDT
Tens of thousands mourn 'Queen of Salsa'
From Rose Arce
NEW YORK (CNN) --Celia Cruz, dubbed the "Queen of Salsa" music, was mourned Tuesday by fans who lined Manhattan's Fifth Avenue for a 1 1/2-mile procession to her funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The body of the Cuban-born singer was carried in a glass-encased, horse-drawn carriage from an Upper East Side funeral home behind a line of flower-adorned black limousines. Her coffin was draped in a Cuban flag.
Cruz died July 16 at age 78 at her home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, after a battle with cancer.
Her widower, trumpeter Pedro Knight, joined a line of prominent Latino musicians who walked the final blocks of the procession.
Knight was met by Mayor Michael Bloomberg outside the cathedral.
Entertainers Antonio Banderas, Marc Anthony and Ruben Blades were among the mourners.
Cruz's body was dressed much as she performed -- in sparkling, extravagant colors.
Fans wept and hoisted her pictures and albums above their heads as the service began, alternately shouting her name and singing her songs.
When the religious portion began, the crowd grew quiet. Patti LaBelle sang "Ave Maria."
Thousands of Cruz fans had waited Monday to glimpse her body lying in a plush coffin bed at Frank Campbell funeral home. New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Rep. Charles Rangel were among those mourners.
The crowds exceeded those who had paid their last respects there to New York celebrities such as Judy Garland, Ed Sullivan, and Billy Martin, funeral directors said.
A wake for Cruz in Miami over the weekend drew nearly 100,000 fans.
In more than five decades of performing, Cruz scooped up many of music's highest accolades, including five Grammys and two Latin Grammys. She released more than 70 albums and appeared in 10 movies.
One of Cuba's most popular singers, she fled the island nation after Fidel Castro came to power. She became a U.S. citizen in 1961 and refused to return to her homeland as long as the Communist leader ruled.
posted on 07/22/2003 7:20:00 PM PDT
Posted on Tue, Jul. 22, 2003
Tens of thousands turn out for salsa legend Celia Cruz's funeral
BY RALPH R. ORTEGA, JOSE MARTINEZ AND DAVE GOLDINER
New York Daily News
NEW YORK - (KRT) - New York buried its beloved Azucar on Tuesday after an unforgettable and emotional final farewell to salsa queen Celia Cruz.
Waving flags and tossing white rose petals, tens of thousands of fans lined Fifth Avenue as Cruz's coffin rolled by in a glass-enclosed carriage drawn by two white horses.
The cheering throngs sang Cruz's songs, packed St. Patrick's Cathedral for a star-studded funeral Mass and crowded into leafy Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, where she was laid to rest.
"Celia, we are missing you so much already," said Rosa Pagan, 64, of East Harlem. "Goodbye, until we meet again in eternity."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined celebrities like Willie Colon, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith at the jam-packed Mass as thousands of fans listened on the street outside.
Patti LaBelle sang a mournful version of "Ave Maria," and Victor Manuelle had the crowd dancing in their pews with a version of Cruz's "La Vida es un Carnaval" ("Life is a Carnival").
"Celia, and her azucar, too, will live forever," the salsa star sang.
Torrential rain drenched the crowds outside, but mourners saw the rain as nothing less than a sign from a higher power.
"The sky is crying for our queen," said Antonio Perez, 47, of the Bronx.
The adios ultimo to Cruz, who died last week of cancer at age 77, unfolded with the same glittery panache and style that marked her six-decade singing career.
Overflow crowds of fans gathered before dawn outside the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, many of them hoping against hope to catch a final glimpse of the Cuban-born singer.
Pedro Knight, Cruz's husband, arrived for a last moment alone with the body of his wife of 41 years.
The procession was led by a shiny white Cadillac convertible carrying a statue of La Virgen de la Caridad, the patron saint of Cuba.
It was followed by the horse-drawn carriage topped with white flowers and lavender roses - Cruz's favorites - and by a half-dozen limousines carrying friends and relatives.
"It reminds me of Princess Diana's funeral," said Carmen Medina, 47, a social worker from the Bronx. "She deserves it, too. Celia was a queen to us."
Knight linked arms with Bloomberg and Colon as they were led into St. Patrick's, which was packed with mourners and electric with emotion.
"She had such power to bring us together and make us vibrate like instruments in her orchestra," said Auxiliary Bishop Josu Iriondo, who delivered a homily in Spanish.
Pallbearers carried Cruz's Cuban flag-draped coffin out of the cathedral into the sunshine, and fans erupted in more chants.
As Knight waited to leave in a limousine, housekeeper Berta Posso slipped under a police barricade and rushed to his open window.
"She was an angel on this Earth," whispered Posso, 56, of the East Village.
"Gracias, hermana," the white-haired Knight replied. "Thank you, sister."
A few miles north, thousands more fans waited for hours playing tambourines, dancing and singing Cruz's songs inside the cemetery in the Bronx.
The skies opened again as Cruz's coffin was carried past leafy trees for a graveside service at the cemetery where Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton are buried.
Her body was entombed in a temporary mausoleum until a special sarcophagus can be built for her.
"My heart feels sad," said Anna Gutierrez, 42, of the Bronx, who belted out her own version of "Carnaval." "But I also feel happy because I'm singing for her."
(New York Daily News correspondent Austin Fenner contributed to this report.)
© 2003, New York Daily News.
posted on 07/22/2003 7:32:03 PM PDT
New York says final farewell to Celia Cruz
BY RENE RODRIGUEZ email@example.com
NEW YORK - They were everywhere at once, it seemed:
Gathered outside the Upper East Side funeral home where an estimated 20,000 people had turned out on Monday to pay their respects; lined up and down a 30-block stretch of Fifth Avenue, where her funeral procession would soon file by; clustered outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan, hoping to snag precious seats for her memorial Mass; huddled outside the gates of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, where Celia Cruz finally would be laid to rest.
Fans of the late Cuban singer overran New York City on Tuesday, buffeted -- but not deterred -- by a ferocious summer thunderstorm that could not dampen their affection for their beloved guarachera, who died July 16 of a brain tumor in her Fort Lee, N.J., home at the age of 77. Even if Gov. George Pataki had not already proclaimed Tuesday ''Celia Cruz Day'' across the state of New York, it still would have felt that way here.
The day began where it had ended Monday, outside the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, where several hundred people gathered on street corners behind police barricades as drivers of passing cars honked their horns and yelled: ``We love you, Celia!''
Shortly before 1 p.m., the mood of quiet expectation gave way to wild cheers and cries of ''Celia!'' as the singer's coffin, draped in a Cuban flag, was placed in a glass-enclosed horse-drawn carriage adorned with lavender roses and yellow azaleas. The carriage headed south on Fifth Avenue, accompanied by limousines carrying family members, friends and truckloads of wreaths and floral arrangements.
Befitting the singer's reputation as the Queen of Salsa, the procession imparted a regal air as it headed towards St. Patrick's. Along the way, curious passers-by mingled with diehard fans, leaning over barricades to snap photos.
''Who is she?'' a dog walker juggling five charges asked. ''Era la reina (She was the queen)!,'' replied a woman clad in a T-shirt emblazoned with Cruz's image. A double-decker sightseeing bus rode past, the tourists aboard capturing the scene with camcorders.
The crowd swelled in numbers as the procession reached midtown, where fans swarmed outside the fabled church, a mass of jostling umbrellas, loud cheers and joyous applause. The rain fell hard, but few seemed to notice. A woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty shouted ''Libertad para Cuba! (Freedom for Cuba!)'' while waving a papier-mché torch.
Inside, where a crowd of 2,000 family members, celebrities and lucky fans were gathered, the mood was calmer and more reflective. Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Rubén Blades, Paquito D'Rivera and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among those who listened to the 90-minute Mass, conducted in Spanish.
In a moving homily punctuated by applause, auxiliary Bishop Josú Iriondo recounted Cruz's humble roots and ensuing career, spoke about the inspirational power of her life and music and celebrated her irrepressible spirit.
''She never distanced herself from ordinary people, and the higher she flew, the higher those people flew with her,'' Iriondo said. ``Celia prophetically said she would live forever, and she will. You haven't left us, Celia. We don't see you, but we feel you, because like divine sugar, you live on to sweeten the coffee that is your people.''
Iriondo also spoke about Cruz's 41-year marriage to Pedro Knight, who received a standing ovation. With peals of thunder rumbling outside, singer Patti LaBelle performed a soulful rendition of Ave Maria, bringing it to a close with a gentle, but perfectly appropriate, ''Azucar!'' -- Cruz's trademark.
Outside the church, the Mass was broadcast via loudspeakers for the thousands who did not make it inside, but much of the crowd opted to celebrate instead, clapping and singing in the intermittent rain.
''It's a very sad occasion, but Celia always said she wanted to be remembered as someone who brought happiness to our lives,'' said Yolanda Rodrigo, 46, of New York City, who took the day off from work to attend the services. ``I know she would have wanted us to celebrate today.''
As if by design, the rain ceased and the sun even shone weakly through the clouds as the Mass ended and Cruz's coffin was placed in a hearse to be taken to Woodlawn Cemetery, home to other musical greats such as Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and Miles Davis. There, too, a large crowd of fans awaited the singer's arrival, ready to bid her a final, but upbeat, farewell.
In the liner notes for her upcoming album Regalo del Alma (Gift From the Soul), due for release next week, Cruz wrote: ``This record is dedicated to . . . all of you who keep giving me such great strength and hope.''
Tuesday, they went on giving just that, seemingly intent on continuing to do it forever.
posted on 07/23/2003 9:44:58 AM PDT
Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual
posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its
management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the
exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson