Celia Cruz

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  • Celia & Johnny

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About Celia Cruz

The first time legendary Cuban singer Celia Cruz stepped up to a microphone was during an amateur vocal contest at a Havana radio station, where she took home first prize—a cake. ∙ After embracing Afro-Cuban music while at Cuba’s Conservatory of Music, she landed her first major gig in 1950—as a vocalist with big band La Sonora Matancera. ∙ In 1960, Cruz and her future husband, trumpeter Pedro Knight, headed to the US, where she began her solo career fronting a band formed for her by Tito Puente. ∙ Her army of fans crowned her Queen of Salsa due to her electrifying live performances and the 70 albums she released between 1958 and 2003. ∙ Cruz’s bold fashion style was so iconic that the Smithsonian Institution put her trademark orange-red-and-white polka-dot dress and shoes in its permanent collection. ∙ She brought her charisma to the big screen, taking roles in The Mambo Kings and The Perez Family, both about a subject she knew well—Cubans trying their luck in the US. ∙ “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” a celebration of Black womanhood that blended Afro-Cuban and urban grooves, picked up three Latin Grammy nominations in 2002, while its namesake LP won for Best Salsa Album. ∙ In addition to receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a National Medal of the Arts, she had a street in Miami renamed in her honor: Celia Cruz Way.

HOMETOWN
Havana, Cuba
BORN
October 21, 1925