Rubén Blades: 1948—: Salsa Singer, Actor, Activist Biography
Political Unrest Sobered Dreams Of Music, Recorded Most Successful Salsa Record, Created Socially Conscious, Yet Danceable Music
Rubén Blades has three very distinct careers that rarely, if ever, meet. As a Grammy Award-winning musician and salsa singer, Blades has released Buscando America, Escenas, Mundo, and Siembra, one of Latin music's most popular albums. As a popular Hollywood actor, he has appeared in such films as The Milagro Beanfield War, The Devil's Own, The Cradle Will Rock, and All the Pretty Horses. As an activist and politician, Blades has long been a champion of human rights issues. When he ran for president in Panama in 1994, he placed a respectable third.
Blades was born on July 16, 1948, in Panama City, Panama. He was the second of five children of Ano-land, a piano player and nightclub singer, and Rubén Blades Sr. a musician, basketball player, and police detective. His paternal grandmother, Emma, was a cultured, free-spirited woman who played a huge part in the boy's childhood. He grew up during the rock 'n' roll heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, listening to Elvis Presley and the Beatles, but the family also listened to the American jazz of Dizzy Gillespie, Glenn Miller, and Duke Ellington, and to Latin American artists such as Beny Moré, Perez Prado, and the Orquesta Casino de la Playa. Blades idolized Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, who recorded the hit "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?," because Lymon was only 14 and led the group. He wrote a letter to Lymon, asking to join the group, but Blades's mother, who wanted her son to concentrate on his education, did not send the note, but bought him a guitar, instead. His visions of America were formed by the idealistic TV show Father Knows Best.
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