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Appreciation: Celia Cruz

1 minute read
Christopher John Farley

CELIA CRUZ, who died last week, left her native Cuba in 1960 and spent the rest of her life taking listeners back there through her music. She was born around 1924, but was coy about her exact birth year. After growing up in Havana, she joined the band La Sonora Matancera. When Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1959, she left for the U.S., where her career flourished. Her contralto voice was like the waters that separate Miami and Havana–inviting, sun-kissed, capable of rising up in a storm. Cruz sang with everybody who was anybody in Latin music–fronting Johnny Pacheco’s band, appearing with Tito Puente in the movie The Mambo Kings–and many future somebodies were listening. Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Ruben Blades and La India acknowledged her influence. Known as the Queen of Salsa, she once said, “Salsa is … all the Cuban rhythms under one name.” You could say the same about Cruz. –By Christopher John Farley

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