|Name:||Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso.|
|Birth date:||October 21, 1924.|
|Breakthrough:||Replacing the lead vocalist of the Sonora Matancera Myrta Silva in 1950.|
This Celia Cruz biography tells the story of a life filled with music, excitement and electrifying performances. Known as the ‘La Reina de la Salsa” and “La Guarachera de Cub”, Cruz’ is considered a musical legend, a woman who helped popularize and energize Latin music.
The Celia Cruz biography is said to be a biography of Afrocuban and salsa music itself, as it grew in popularity in the United States. Nobody could make sugar sweeter than Celia Cruz.
The Latin performer, who made azúcar, the Spanish word for sugar, a rallying cry from the stage, was more than a singer.
The life of Celia Cruz began on October 21, 1925 in Havana, Cuba when she was born to Catalina Alfonso and Simón Cruz. She grew up in the poor neighborhood of Santos Suárez where she was influenced by Cuba’s diverse musical climate.
Celia’s singing talent was spotted early-on and when she was a teenager, her aunt took her to cabarets to sing and perform in amateur contests. But Cruz’s father had other plans for his daughter and he encouraged her to remain in school and become a teacher. However, she remained undettered, especially after one of her teachers told her that as a singer Cruz could earn in one day what she made in a month!
In 1950, the life of Celia Cruz took a new twist when she began singing with renowned Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera. Celia Cruz’ music with the group helped propel it, and Latin music, to new heights. Celia Cruz’ music with the band was a mixture of boleros, cha-chas and guarachas, a medium-tempo style of Cuban street music that rose to popularity in the 1950s.
Cruz, who at this time became known as “La Guarachera de Cuba”, stayed with the group until 1965. Some of the band’s more popular songs during this time included “Yerbero Moderno,” “Burundanga,” and “Caramelo.” The group, which became known as “Café Con Leche,” traveled all over Latin America, alerting the world to this new talented chanteuse.
The Celia Cruz biography tells many stories, and one of my favorite is about the “azúcar” saying. While touring with the band, Cruz would frequently tell a joke about the time she ordered coffee in Miami and was asked if she wanted sugar. Since the waiter was Cuban, she told him that he should know that you can’t drink Cuban coffee without it! Eventually, Cruz dropped the joke and would simply open her performances shouting out “Azúcar!”.
Throughout the life of Celia Cruz, the word “azúcar” would become synonymous with the performer and a symbol of the energy and sabor, Spanish for flavor, that Cruz injected into all of her performances.
While in the group, Cruz also became romantically involved with one of the band’s trumpet players, Pedro Knight. The pair married in 1962 in Connecticut. It was a union that would last 41 years.
Upon leaving Cuba in 1960 as leader Fidel Castro took control, the biography of Celia Cruz began to include another musical ascent. As Latin orchestras surged in popularity, she was asked many times to perform at New York City’s famed Tropicana nightclub.
After leaving La Sonora Matancera, the Celia Cruz biography would become even more impressive, departing from the group established her as a solo artist, and helped showcase her larger-than-life performances, which became known for her enormously large wigs, vibrant dresses and skyscraper-like high heeled shoes.
Music lovers across the world embraced her style and her love of the classic Cuban “son”, the root of most Latin music, including mambo and salsa
For the next four decades, Celia Cruz’ lyrics and music catapulted her to iconic status. She worked with some of the most respected names in Latin music, including her counterpart “El Rey de la Salsa”, Puerto Rico’s Tito Puente as well as Dominican “Godfather” of salsa music, Johnny Pacheco.
The Celia Cruz biography became one of the few to tell a story of a woman involved in the mostly-male Afro-Latin music scene. Celia Cruz was known for her talents as an improviser on stage during the call-and-response section of salsa music that comes from traditional African music.
Celia Cruz’ music evolved with the times and toward the end of her career, she began branching out into dance and hip-hop music, including a popular cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and the hip-hop infused “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” which had fans of all ethnicities shaking their booties on the dance floor in 2002.
Celia continued to collaborate with some of the world’s most respected musical talents, including Aretha Franklin and Luciano Pavarotti, with whom she sang a duet of her famous “Guantanamera.”
She made more than 76 records, winning multiple Grammys and Latin Grammys. She also appeared in several movies, including 1992’s “The Mambo Kings” and earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1989.
Celia Cruz also collected honorary degrees from Yale, the University of Miami and Florida International University and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1994 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C.
On July 16, 2003, Cruz died of a brain tumor in her Fort Lee, N.J., home. Per her wishes, her body was flown to Miami, a city she treasured, for a memorial after her death before returning to New York for burial. When her body arrived in Manhattan, a horse-drawn carriage carried Cruz down Fifth Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral as tens of thousands of fans said goodbye.
For all her success, the life of Celia Cruz was not without its disappointments. One sad part on the Celia Cruz biography is that she never returned to Cuba: after she left, Castro considered her a traitor and would not even allow her to return for her mother’s funeral.
Celia dreamed of returning to her homeland. “Yo llevo a Cuba la voz, desde esta playa lejana,'”I send to Cuba my voice, from this distant beach, she once sang. The Celia Cruz biography tells that in the end, Cruz’ distinctive and rich voice, which seemed to vibrate with the rhythm of the island of her birth, carried her song from Cuba all around the world.
Celia Cruz Books and Art
A good Celia Cruz biography I recommend many is Celia Cruz Queen of Salsa. It is candid yet filled with beatiful words and experiences. It is a book to share with your children.