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Celia Cruz: 1924(?)—: Salsa Vocalist - Recorded For Fania Label

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In 1973 Cruz appeared in Hommy, a Spanish-language adaptation of the Who's rock opera Tommy. Her reputation spread both within and beyond the Hispanic community in the 1970s after she signed with the new salsa label Fania and recorded with a cream-of-the-crop lineup, the Fania All-Stars, drawn from its stable of artists. The Fania All-Stars album Live at Yankee Stadium (two vols., 1976) documented the power of her performances. Cruz has appeared in several films, including The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1992) and The Perez Family (1995).

One of Cruz's performance trademarks is a full-throated shout of "Azucar!" (Sugar!); she explained its 1970s origins in a 2000 Billboard interview. "I was having dinner at a restaurant in Miami, and when the waiter offered me coffee, he asked me if I took it with or without sugar. I said, 'Chico, you're Cuban. How can you even ask that? With sugar!' And that evening during my show … I told the audience the story and they laughed. And one day, instead of telling the story, I simply walked down the stairs and shouted 'Azucar!'"

Cruz might be compared with U.S. jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan in her ability to bring vocal techniques to a primarily instrumental music, but she has a more essentially popular appeal than any jazz singer. Seemingly indestructible vocally, Cruz continued a full schedule of concerts and recordings throughout the 1980s and beyond. She received a Grammy award for thealbum Ritmo en el corazón, recorded with conga player Ray Barretto, in 1990, as well as an honorary doctorate from Yale University.

Still a major star in her own right, Cruz became an inspiration for numerous younger performers (such as Gloria Estefan) in the 1990s; her audience hardly aged along with her. "We've never had to attract these kids," she told Time. "They come by themselves. Rock is a strong influence on them, but they still want to know about their roots." For most Hispanic Americans, indeed, Celia Cruz has been and remains a much-loved figure, an icon of Latin culture.


Selected discography

The Winners, Vaya, 1987.

Best, Sony/Globo, 1992, originally issued on Fania Records.

Best, Vol. 2, Sony Discos/Globo, 1994 (more Fania-label music).

Canciones Premiadas, Palladium, 1994.

Irrepetible, UNI/RMM, 1994.

La Tierna Conmovedora Bambolea, Palladium, 1994.

Homenaje a Los Santos, Polydor, 1994.

Celia and Willie, 1994.Vaya.

Cuba's Queen of Rhythm, Palladium, 1995.

Canta Celia Cruz, Palladium, 1995.

Irresistible, Sony Discos/Orfeon, 1995.

Fania All-Stars, Sony Discos, 1997.

La reina de Cuba, International, 1997.

Azucar Negra, UNI/RMM, 1998.

Fiestón Tropical, Orfeon, 1998.

Mi vida es cantar, RMM, 1998.

Tributo a las Orishas, International, 1999.

Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night of Salsa Live, RMM, 2000.

Siempre vivire, Sony, 2000.

On Fire: The Essential Celia Cruz, Manteca, 2000.

La negra tiene tumbao, Sony, 2001.

Recuerdos de Cuba, Orfeon, 2002.

Carnaval de Éxitos, RMM, 2002.

Su Favorita Celia Cruz, Secco.

Reflexiónes De Celia Cruz, Secco.

Bravo Celia Cruz, Tico.

With Tito Puente Cuba y Puerto Rico Son, Tico.

El Quimbo Quimbumbia, Tico.

Alma Con Alma, Tico.

Algo Especial Para Recordar, Tico.

100% Azucar: The Best of Celia, Rhino, 1997.

Cuba's Foremost Rhythm Singer, Secco.

Con Amor: Celia Cruz with La Sonora Matancera, Secco.

La Incomparable Celia and Sonora Matancera, Secco.

Feliz Encuentro, Barbaro.

Nostalgia Tropical, Orfeon.

Celia and Johnny,Vaya.


Sources

Books


Boggs, Vernon W., Salsiology : Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New York City, Excelsior Music Pub. Co., 1992.

Bossy, Michel-Andre, et al., eds., Lives & Legacies: Artists, Writers, and Musicians, Oryx, 2001.

Broughton, Simon, Mark Ellingham, David Muddy-man, and Richard Trillo, eds., World Music: The Rough Guide, Penguin, 1999.

Contemporary Musicians, volume 22, Gale, 1998.


Periodicals


Billboard, May 21, 1994, p. LM-6; October 28, 2000, p. 50.

Time, July 11, 1988, p. 50.


—James M. Manheim

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