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

Ran For Panamanian Presidency

Blades is active in many human rights campaigns regarding his native Panama, but he also backs international causes. He appeared with Bono of U2, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, and other socially conscious musicians in the anti-apartheid music video "Sun City" that debuted on MTV in 1988. In 1991 Blades traveled to Panama and founded the Movemiento Papa Egoró, which translates roughly as Mother Earth Party, or Motherland Party. The party vowed to fight hunger, unemployment, and drugs in Panama, and Blades ran for president of Panama on the party's ticket. He even wrote and recorded his own campaign song, "The Good Seed," which declares "change is coming." Though early polls favored him, Blades came in third in the election, a respectable showing for a non-politician. The Papa Egoró party, however, managed to win seven representational seats in the government.

There are some who have suggested Blades might have been more successful in his bid for president of Panama had he not moved to Hollywood and married a blonde, blue-eyed, North American actress, Lisa Lebenzon. As Blades has achieved more mainstream success and popularity, there have been many critics who have accused him of selling out. "Deep down, he [Blades] knows he's forgotten his friends, his people, his country, his music, and himself," Leon Ichaso, the director of Crossover Dreams, is quoted as saying in Rubén Blades. His supporters contend that while Blades has crossed over into the mainstream, he has taken his audiences with him, not left them behind.

Blades's later records became more world-inspired, exploring Celtic, Arabic, and Hindu influences in music. On Tiempos, released in 1999, Blades collaborated with the Costa Rican jazz group Editus to create a pan-Latin sound that he filled out with European classical music. He originally conceived of Mundos as a way to marry Irish and Latin sounds, but ended up making "a kind of map, where I began in the Northeast part of Africa, from Ethiopia, and I took that path to Asia Minor," he is quoted as saying in Billboard. "I crossed part of Turkey, what today are independent Russian republics. I crossed toward Europe and then I jumped to America. During that voyage, I integrated these sounds." Washington Post music critic Fernando Gonzalez wrote: "Blades crosses cultural borders to borrow whatever he feels he needs…. When it works, the sum effect is illuminating."

Selected works


De Panama a Nueva York: Pete Rodriguez Presenta a Rubén Blades, 1970.
Willie Colón Presents Rubén Blades, 1977.

Siembra, 1978.

Bohemio y Poeta, Fania, 1979.

Maestra Vida: Primera Parte, Fania, 1980.

Maestra Vida: Segunda Parte, Fania, 1980.

Buscando América, Elektra, 1984.

Escenas, Elektra, 1985.

Crossover Dreams, Elektra, 1986.

Agua de Luna, Elektra, 1986.

Nothing But the Truth, Elektra, 1988.

Antecedente, Elektra, 1988.

Rubén Blades y Son del SolarLive!, Elektra, 1990.

Caminando, Discos CBS, 1991.

Doble Filo, Fania, 1992.

El Que La Hace La Paga, Fania, 1992.

Rubén Blades with Strings, Fania, 1992.

Amor Y Control, Discos CBS, 1992.

Joseph & His Brothers, Rabbit Ears, 1993.

Rosa de Los Vientos, Sony, 1996.

Tiempos, Sony, 1999.

From Panama, Fania, 2000.

Sembra Y Otros Favoritos Salsa Para Siempre, Musica Latina, 2001.

Salsa Caliente de Nu York, Import, 2002.

Mundo, Sony, 2002.


The Last Fight, 1983.

Routes of Rhythm, 1984.

Crossover Dreams, 1985.

Critical Condition, 1987.

Fatal Beauty, 1987.

The Return of Rubén Blades, 1987.

The Milagro Beanfield War, 1988.

Homeboy, 1988.

Dead Man Out, 1989.

Disorganized Crime, 1989.

Mo' Better Blues, 1990.

The Two Jakes, 1990.

Heart of the Deal, 1990.

Predator 2, 1990.

The Lemon Sisters, 1990.

The Super, 1991.

Crazy from the Heart, 1991.

One Man's War, 1991.

The Josephine Baker Story, 1991.

Life with Mikey, 1993.

Miracle on Interstate 880, 1993.

Color of Night, 1994.

A Million to Juan, 1994.

Somos un solo pueblo, 1995.

Yo soy, del Son a la Salsa, 1997.

Chinese Box, 1997.

Scorpion Spring, 1997.

The Devil's Own, 1997.

Cradle Will Rock, 1999.

All the Pretty Horses, 2000.

Gideon's Crossing, 2000.

Assassination Tango, 2002.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico, 2003.

Imagining Argentina, 2003.

The Maldonado Miracle, 2003.



Cruz, Bárbara C., Rubén Blades: Salsa Singer and Human Activist, Enslow Publishers, 1997.

Martin, Betty A., Rubén Blades, Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.


Billboard, September 7, 2002, p. 12.

New York Times, August 26, 1999, p. 3.

Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2002, p. D10.

Washington Post, November 17, 2002, p. G4.


"I'll Take New York!," Pulse!, http://pulse.towerrecords.com (January 15, 2003).

Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com (February 5, 2003).

"Rubén Blades," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (February 5, 2003).

"Rubén Blades," Music of Puerto Rico, www.musicofpuertorico.com/Ruben_blades.html (January 15, 2003). "Rubén Blades Biography," Sony Discos Database, www.sonydiscos.com/discos/content.nsf/bio/ (January 15, 2003).

—Brenna Sanchez

Additional topics

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