Black Entertainment : Celia Cruz dies after battle with cancer

Discussion in 'Black Entertainment' started by UbZoRbShUn, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. UbZoRbShUn

    UbZoRbShUn Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Apr 2, 2001
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    From the Sun-Sentinel South Florida
    By David Cázares
    Miami Bureau Chief

    July 17 2003

    After a reign of more than half a century as the undisputed queen of Latin music, Celia Cruz has stepped off the world's stage.

    Ms. Cruz, the Cuban singer who began performing in 1949 with La Sonora Matancera in Cuba and later became an internationally known salsa star and symbol of Cuban culture, died at 5 p.m. Wednesday at her home in New Jersey. Her husband of 41 years, Pedro Knight, and family and friends were at her side, said her publicist, Blanca Lasalle.

    Ms. Cruz, 77, died of complications resulting from surgery in December to remove a brain tumor.

    She was the latest in a series of legendary Latin performers to succumb in recent years, following master percussionist Tito Puente, bandleader and composer Chico O'Farrill and percussionist Ramón "Mongo" Santamaria. With them and others, she helped define Latin music for decades and influenced countless performers of various genres from around the world.

    "In jazz, there was Miles Davis and John Coltrane," said Yale Evelev, president of Luaka Bop, a New York City-based record label that specializes in cutting-edge world music. "In Latin, there's Celia Cruz."

    A commanding voice

    Ms. Cruz, who left Cuba in 1961, was best known as one of the leading performers of Afro-Cuban son, the danceable genre that reflects the joy and pain of everyday life, and is the root of modern salsa. She had a commanding voice that summoned listeners to the dance floor and an infectious style that kept them there, particularly when she infused numbers with her trademark phrase ¡Azúcar! [Sugar!].

    "When people hear me sing," she told The New York Times, "I want them to be happy, happy, happy. I don't want them thinking about when there's not any money, or when there's fighting at home. My message is always felicidad -- happiness."

    Producer Sergio George, who collaborated with Ms. Cruz on her soon-to-be released album, Regalo del Alma [Gift From The Soul] on Sony Music, said of Cruz: "She's one of the greatest figures in Latin music history, not just salsa. I would say she's an icon in the music of the world as we know it in the last 100 years."

    A native of Havana, Ms. Cruz studied musical theory, voice and piano at the National Music Conservatory. She later became one of the leading figures during the golden age of Afro-Cuban music of the 1940s and 1950s, and helped La Sonora Matancera become the island's most popular ensemble. While in the group she met her husband, then one of the band's two trumpeters.

    "The only one who is comparable to Celia in the history of Cuban music was Beny Moré," Cuba's legendary bandleader of the 1940s and '50s, said Nat Chediak, an influential music critic and promoter in Miami. "It's the end of an era, something that we will not see the likes of again."

    Lasalle described the singer as an inspiration, one who proved that a woman could rule in a male-dominated business. "She opened so many doors for so many other people," Lasalle said. "You see Japanese people singing her songs even though they don't know the language. She is very responsible for Cuban music getting the kind of attention and the recognition that Cuban music deserves. There was no one like her."

    Ms. Cruz, who recorded more than 70 albums, suffered a stroke in December and later told People en Español that she had a brain tumor. After surgery to remove it at Presbyterian Hospital in New York, she spent most of the past few months recovering at home, but found the time and energy to record her final CD, due to be released in August.

    The upcoming 12-track album, which was produced by George and Isidro Infante, is expected to include numbers from Panamanian rapper El General, Spanish singer Lolita Flores and Ashe Bahia, a Brazilian vocal and dance troupe based in Chile. A single, Rie y Llora [Laugh and Cry] already has been released.

    In Miami, home of the largest Cuban community outside of Cuba, the singer's death was met with shock and dismay.

    "There's going to be an emptiness for a long time when we realize that there's no more Celia Cruz," said salsa singer Willy Chirino. "She occupied such a privileged space in this industry and was such a strong figure. She will be greatly missed."

    But Ms. Cruz, long a larger-than-life figure in the Cuban exile community, will be remembered for more than her music. For years, she was also known for her staunch opposition to Fidel Castro's government.

    "Without question Celia Cruz was a living symbol of Cuban culture, someone who was famous before she left for freedom and someone who was famous afterwards for making Cuban music, even though she was barred from singing in her own country," said Joe García, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation. "She was the antithesis in many respects of everything that the revolution is -- from the get-go."

    Ms. Cruz will be remembered, García said, for "the very fact that she was black, that she left from the beginning, that she never compromised. She kept a steady course and projected herself almost continuously with the cause for Cuban freedom."

    Fans in Cuba

    The singer was not without her fans in Cuba, where even young ones carry copies of her latest CDs.

    Ms. Cruz loved her homeland and dedicated her career to Cuba, which continued to inspire her late in life. Though she abhorred the island's communist government, she was proud of Cuba's longstanding ability to produce world-class musicians.

    "Cuba has given the world very good artists and it continues to do that," Ms. Cruz told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in an interview in late 2001. "You can't ignore that."

    Ms. Cruz never had children. She was preceded in death by a brother, Bárbaro, who remained in Cuba. Besides her husband, she is survived by two sisters, Dolores Cruz in Cuba and Gladys Becquer in New Jersey; and two nieces, both daughters of Becquer.

    Last year, her husband and Omer Pardillo, her manager, helped her fulfill a longtime dream by creating the Celia Cruz Foundation, which plans to award scholarships to five students in New York this fall.

    The singer also treasured her role as an elder stateswoman for Latin music, a role she was appointed to years ago when Puente dubbed her its queen.

    Ms. Cruz, who came to the United States in 1962, was already a big star when she arrived in New York. But it was her collaboration with the late Puente, a master timbalero, which helped her achieve international fame.

    "When I stopped singing he would applaud as if he were part of the audience," she told the Sun-Sentinel, recalling that the Puerto Rican bandleader, like other Latin Americans in the United States, helped keep Cuban music alive during a time when Cuba's musicians were isolated from audiences in the United States.

    From her work with Fania Records in the salsa heyday of the 1970s, her recordings in the 1990s with RMM Records, her recent recordings and countless international tours, Ms. Cruz long served as a standard bearer for Latin music. She inspired countless younger performers and also has lent her voice to the songs of Latin American composers.

    For a while, however, Ms. Cruz grew disenchanted with the direction that salsa music was taking, particularly a decade or so ago, when so-called "romantic" singers infused the music with risqué lyrics that she dubbed "salsa porno."

    "There were some daring lyrics," she said. " I didn't like them because they were anti-women. How can a man put down women? He was born of a woman. Those songs were too strong."

    But as the music changed, so did Ms. Cruz. In recent years, the singer won three Latin Grammy awards for recordings that infused traditional salsa with modern touches, such as rap.

    She also recorded with a number of artists from other genres, among them Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso and Wyclef Jean, who included a version of the classic Cuban song Guantanamera on a recent album. She has also performed with rock groups such as Fabulosos Cadillacs and Jarabe de Palo.

    Her last two albums were largely collaborations with Sergio George, 41, who said he became hooked on the singer's music in the early 1970s.

    "When I first heard her I thought who is that," George said. "The heart and soul that she put into the songs at that time was amazing."

    Pop Music Writer Sean Piccoli contributed to this report.

    David Cázares is also the Sun-Sentinel's Latin/World Beat columnist. He can be reached at [email protected] or 305-810-5002.
    Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    and I know yall know who she was...... dang we loosing all the great ones...... RIP
  2. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jul 9, 2003
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    new jersey
    She is an ancestor now, may we invoke her in times of guidance