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Rubén Blades: 1948—: Salsa Singer, Actor, Activist

Created Socially Conscious, Yet Danceable Music

While Buscando América was grounded in social commentary, Escenas, released in 1985, was more based in personal relationships. On it, he sings a heartbreaking duet with Linda Ronstadt, "Silencios." The album earned Blades his first Grammy Award. Seis del Solar's 1987 album, Agua de Luna, contains songs inspired by the works of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Marquez. His 1988 album, Nothing But the Truth, was his first album in English, and features performances by such popular singers as Sting, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, and Lou Reed—a testament to how well-known Blades himself had become. The album was strong on social issues, with tunes like "The Letter," which addresses AIDS, "Salvador," which laments human-rights violations, and "Ollie's Doo-Wop," which is a sarcastic ditty about Oliver North's involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1989 Blades added a seventh member to his group and changed the name to "Son del Solar," or "Sound of the 'Hood," and released the Grammy Award-winning album Antecedente. He earned his third Grammy for La Rosa de los Vientos in 1997.

While he was maintaining a busy recording and touring schedule, Blades was also building his career as a film actor. He appeared in Robert Redford's The Milagro Beanfield War as Sheriff Bernie, who tries to maintain peace between the citizens of a small village in New Mexico and the development company that is trying to build there. Though Blades received strong reviews for his part, the essentially Latin film was criticized because it was directed by an Anglo. His role as a convicted murderer in the HBO movie Dead Man Out, with Danny Glover, was praised by critics and earned him cable TV's ACE Award. Actor and director Jack Nicholson so wanted Blades for his film The Two Jakes that he planned shooting the film around the musician's touring schedule. In 1991 Blades played Petey the bookie in Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues. Also in 1991 Blades played opposite Christine Lahti in Crazy from the Heart, a romantic comedy that addresses racial prejudice. He received an Emmy Award later that year for his role in The Josephine Baker Story.Healsohas appeared in The Devil's Own, The Cradle Will Rock, and All the Pretty Horses, among others. He always has tried to avoid being typecast in stereotypical Hispanic roles, such as that of the drug dealer or criminal.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalRubén Blades: 1948—: Salsa Singer, Actor, Activist Biography - Political Unrest Sobered Dreams Of Music, Recorded Most Successful Salsa Record, Created Socially Conscious, Yet Danceable Music