4 minute read

Gloria Estefan: Singer, Songwriter

Miami Sound Machine

While she was still in college, Gloria was persuaded by her mother to attend a wedding, where a band called the Miami Latin Boys was playing. The band leader, Emilio Estefan, asked Gloria to sing with the band for a few numbers—she received a standing ovation. Soon, Gloria and her cousin, Merci, joined the band, which was quickly renamed the Miami Sound Machine. As the popularity of the band grew, they went from playing small weddings to performing in front of larger crowds and eventually recorded their first album, Renacer. Although Gloria and Emilio maintained a platonic relationship for the first few months of playing in the band together, they eventually began dating, and on September 1, 1978, Gloria's birthday, they were married. In 1980 Estefan gave birth to a son, Nayib. The same year, her father died. Emilio Estefan, sensing the band's potential for stardom, resigned from his job as director of Hispanic marketing at Bacardi in order to manage the band full time, swiftly obtaining a contract for them to record four albums with the Latin Music division of CBS, Discos.

At a Glance . . .

Born on September 1, 1957 in Havana, Cuba; immigrated to U.S., 1959; daughter of Jose Manuel and Gloria Fajardo; married Emilio Estefan, Jr., 1978; children: Nayib, Emily Marie. Education: University of Miami, B.A. in psychology.

Career: Joined Miami Latin Boys 1975; groups' name changed to Miami Sound Machine; toured Latin America and Europe, 1976-84; single "Dr. Beat" first English-language hit single 1984.Primitive Love, first hit English-language album, 1986; Single, "Conga," first to appear simultaneously on Billboard's dance, R&B, and Latin charts simultaneously. Solo performer, early 1990s-.Mi Tierra (1993), Abriendo Puertas and Alma Caribena. Acting: Music of the Heart (1999); The Arturo Sandoval Story (made for television), 2000.

Awards: Billboard's Best New Pop Artist and Top Pop Singles Artist, 1986; American Music Award Best Pop Band, 1987; MTV Video Music Award, 1990; Billboard Best Latin Female Artist and Music Video Award, 1991; BMI Songwriter of the Year, 1991; B'nai B'rith Humanitarian of the Year, 1992; Lifetime Achievement Award Premio lo Nuestro Musica Latina, 1992; Univ. of Miami, honorary doctoral degree of music, 1993. Hispanic Heritage Award,1993; Medal of Honor Ellis Island,1993; Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1993; Alexis De Tocqueville Society United Way Outstanding Philanthropy, 1993; Grammy Award Best Latin Tropical Album, 1994; Musicares Person of the Year, 1994; Billboard Music Video of the Year, 1995; Grammy Award Best Latin Tropical Album, 1996; Alma Lifetime Achievement Award, Billboard Dance Track of the Year, 1999; International Women's Forum Hall of Fam Award, 2000; Latin Grammy Award Best Music Video, 2000; The National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame (with Emilio), 2001

Addresses: Record company—Epic Records, 51 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019; Fan club—c/o Estefan Enterprises Inc., 6205 Bird Road, Miami, Fl 33155

The music of Miami Sound Machine blended sambas with pop and disco influences. Their first albums were in Spanish and were largely unknown to English speakers, but they were very popular with Hispanic American audiences, especially, of course, in Miami. During their early years, the band toured several Latin American countries and had several hit songs in Spanish-speaking countries. In 1984, they released their first English-language album, Eyes of Innocence, and scored their first big American hit with "Dr. Beat." The song rose to number ten in the United States and was on the charts in Europe as well.

In 1986 the song "Conga Love" from the album Primitive Love became a true crossover breakthrough: it was the first song ever to simultaneously hit the top of Billboard's charts in pop, R&B, Latin, and dance music. The album included both English and Spanish language recordings, and the song itself went on to win the American Music Awards for Best New Pop Artist and Top Pop Singles Artist. Other hits from the album included "Bad Boys," and "Words Get in the Way". This would be the last album on which Emilio Estefan would perform—from this point on, he was full-time manager and producer for the band.

The band's success prompted a move to CBS Epic label, the mainstream music division of CBS. Miami Sound Machine had altered over time, with several changes in band members over the years. The recording studio musicians were often different from the touring concert band members, and musically, dance numbers were interspersed with ballads, featuring Estefan's melodic singing. As Estefan herself rose in popularity, the band changed names yet again to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

Estefan and the Sound Machine's popularity continued to soar, and they performed to sell-out crowds in large stadiums. Music videos on MTV and VH-1 introduced to band to many more fans. In 1987 the album Let It Loose sold four million copies and featured the hit singles "1-2-3," "Anything for You," and "Betcha Say That." Their 1989 album, Cuts Both Ways, had only Estefan's name on the cover. She had written seven of the songs and won BMI Songwriter of the year. Estefan was one of the first musicians to recognize that undiluted Cuban music had huge potential among world audiences, and in 1990, she released the Spanish-language single "Oye Mi Canto."

Additional topics

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