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Estefan, Gloria

Gloria Estefan

Singer, songwriter

The path of Gloria Estefan's career might be best traced through the successive names of the musical ensemble of which she has been a member since the mid-1970s. As a teenager she joined the Miami Latin Boys as a vocalist; her bandmates then renamed themselves the Miami Sound Machine. Estefan eventually became their primary singer, and in a little over a decade her energetic fronting of the band and its burgeoning pop success led to its rechristening as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. By the mid-1990s, nearly 20 years into her career, the singer and songwriter had finally achieved solo billing.

Estefan was originally a Spanish-language performer but switched to English as the Miami Sound Machine began receiving more recognition. Over the years Estefan's recordings have sold millions and made her an international star. Her musical style is credited with helping make Latin-flavored pop music—based on the rhythms of her native Cuba—a tremendous crossover success. In 1993 she returned to her first language and released an album of songs in Spanish. Although Estefan's early years in the entertainment industry were marked by a terrible, recurring stage fright, she developed into a sultry international pop star known for her showstopping performances. Estefan still lives in her hometown of Miami, Florida, where she is revered by its large Cuban-American community. Adding to the drama of her rags-to-riches life story, in 1990 Estefan survived a near-fatal bus accident that could have put her in a wheelchair permanently.

Estefan was born in Cuba in 1957 to Gloria, a schoolteacher, and Jose Manuel Fajardo, who worked as a bodyguard for the country's leader, dictator Fulgencio Batista. When Communist forces, led by Fidel Castro, took over a year later, the Fajardo family fled to Miami; Estefan's father later went back on a military mission funded by the U.S. government and was captured by his own cousins and imprisoned. After 18 months President John F. Kennedy negotiated his release. Jose Fajardo then joined the U.S. military, and the family, which by then included Gloria's younger sister, Becky, relocated several times as he transferred from base to base. Eventually he was sent to Vietnam.

As a child, Estefan attended Catholic schools and began taking on an increasing amount of responsibility in her family. Her mother first attended college, then worked outside the home, and Gloria did many of the household chores. Her father, after returning from the war in 1968, was stricken with multiple sclerosis as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and the adolescent Estefan looked after her disabled father for part of the day. She found solace from the burdens in singing. "It was my release from everything, my escape," Estefan told Rolling Stone reporter Daisann McLane. "I'd lock myself up in my room with my guitar," a birthday gift her mother had ordered from Spain. "I wouldn't cry. … I would sing for hours by myself." The popular music of the era, especially British acts like the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, were a strong influence on her.

The singer met her future husband, Emilio Estefan, at a wedding in 1975. He was playing the disco hit "The Hustle" on an accordion. Smitten with the young Cuban emigre, Gloria, along with her cousin Merci, offered to sing in Estefan's local combo for free. Within a year she was singing with the band—then called the Miami Latin Boys but sometimes billed as the Miami Latin Kings—at local weddings, and had enrolled in the University of Miami as a psychology major. At the time, she was still a shy, overweight teenager. Bandmate Emilio Estefan, on the other hand, was considered "the catch of the town." His work as a percussionist and manager of the Latin Boys, soon to be renamed the Miami Sound Machine, was only a hobby for the workaholic. He worked for Bacardi, eventually rising to the post of director of Hispanic marketing for the rum importing company.

The couple began a flirtation during the hours they spent together rehearsing and performing. They married in September of 1978, after Gloria had graduated from college. Meanwhile, she was becoming a more integral member of the Sound Machine, by this time a phenomenally popular Miami act that also included Enrique Garcia and Juan Marcos Avila. Estefan honed her vocal style, learned more about the Cuban music of her roots, and became a percussionist as well. It was also around the time of the couple's marriage that the Miami Sound Machine recorded their first album, Renacer, on a Miami-based label. "A rough collection of original Spanish-language ballads and disco pop, it was produced on a budget of $2,000, but Estefan's warm, distinctive purr comes through," wrote McLane.

By 1980 Emilio Estefan had recognized that the band's sound, with its blend of Cuban rhythms and American pop sensibilities, had surefire potential. He resigned from Bacardi in order to take the Sound Machine's local success to another level, a move that also coincided with the arrival of the couple's first child, a boy they named Nayib. As the band's full-time manager, Emilio won a recording contract with the Hispanic division of CBS Records, called Discos CBS. Estefan performed as vocalist on four of the albums the Sound Machine recorded for the company during the early 1980s, and also wrote some of the band's songs.

With such major label backing, the Miami Sound Machine quickly became a success south of the border. Writing of this early period, McLane explained that their "sound was derivative, but for Latin American fans, Miami Sound Machine was unique—the first band that played state-of-the-art American pop rock and spoke the right language. In Venezuela and Peru, Panama and Honduras, their records shot to Number One." The band then convinced CBS to put out an English-language album.

For the Record …

Born Gloria Fajardo on September 1, 1957, in Havana, Cuba; immigrated to the United States, 1959; daughter of Jose Manuel (a bodyguard to Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista) and Gloria (a schoolteacher) Fajardo; married Emilio Estefan, Jr. (a musician), 1978; children: Nayib, Emily Marie. Education: University of Miami (FL), B.A. in psychology.

Worked as customs translator at Miami International Airport, mid-1970s; joined group Miami Latin Boys (also billed as the Miami Latin Kings), 1975; group's name changed to Miami Sound Machine; toured Latin America and Europe numerous times, 1976-84; released several hit albums in Spanish; released first English language album, Primitive Love, 1986; represented United States at the Pan American Games, 1987; solo performer, 1990s-; founder and owner, with husband, Emilio, of Cuban cuisine restaurant in Miami, FL; released Unwrapped, 2003; issued two greatest hits collections, The Essential Gloria Estefan and Oye Mi Canto!: Los Grandes Exitos, 2006; released 90 Millas, 2007.

Awards: BMI, Songwriter of the Year, 1988; Premio lo Nuestro Musica Latina, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1992; American Latino Media Arts (ALMA), Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999; ALMA, outstanding actress in a feature film, 2000; Blockbuster Award, 2000; Latin Grammy Award, best music video, 2000; Grammy Award, best traditional tropical Latin album, 2000; Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Medallion of Excellence for Community Service, 2002; Berklee College of Music, Boston, honorary doctorate, 2007.

Addresses: Record company—Epic Records, 51 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019.

The first crossover release for the Miami Sound Machine, and Estefan's debut record in English, was 1984's Eyes of Innocence. Its first single, a disco tune called "Dr. Beat," made appearances on European charts. Next, the band signed on a local trio called the Jerks---Rafael Vigil, Joe Galdo, and Lawrence Dermer---whom Emilio had met when they were re- cording a jingle for a commercial. The Jerks had been working on a salsa-influenced aerobics record, and some of the tracks they penned appeared on the Sound Machine's next album, 1985's Primitive Love. The hugely successful release catapulted both Estefan and the group into international pop superstardom with the singles "Bad Boys," "Words Get in the Way," and "Conga." At that point, Emilio left the band to take over as its full-time manager and producer.

The Jerks also worked on the Sound Machine's 1987 album Let It Loose, but quit after disagreements with Emilio, who was also listed as producer, over creative and financial differences. Other personnel changes in the Sound Machine, including the departure of founding drummer Enrique Garcia, also plagued the group during these years. Estefan was needled by her husband to change her look and become more outgoing on stage. "Emilio saw a side of me that I didn't let people see, and he wanted that to come out to people," Estefan told McLane. "He was trying to make me confident, but I could've smacked him. At the beginning, everybody would always accuse me of being stuck up, 'cause I was shy. But a performer can't afford to be shy."

Estefan's increasing confidence and ebullience helped propel record and concert sales through the roof, a success that she and the band could hardly have imagined. Let It Loose sold four million copies, spurred by its hit single "1-2-3." In 1988 Estefan won the prestigious BMI Songwriter of the Year award. She penned several of the songs for Cuts Both Ways, a 1989 effort. It also sold well into the millions, and international tours to support the releases were often marked by sold-out crowds. By now the act was billed as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

In 1990 the nonstop touring that had marked much of Estefan's career came to an abrupt halt when she was involved in a serious accident. The band's tour bus had stopped before a stalled, jackknifed semitrailer on a snowy highway in Pennsylvania one March night. The vehicle was hit from the rear by another truck, and Estefan was catapulted to the floor from the berth in which she had been sleeping. Her husband and nine-year-old son were only slightly injured, but the impact broke Estefan's back. Fans feared from early news reports that the singer might be paralyzed for life.

The public outpouring of support for the critically injured Estefan was overwhelming. Some radio stations in Miami began playing her songs nearly nonstop, and a 1-900 number was set up for well-wishers to leave messages. Cards, flowers, and presents flooded her hospital room, first in Scranton, Pennsylvania, then in New York City, where she was later transferred. Even then-President George Bush called twice to wish the singer well.

In New York, surgeons implanted two eight-inch-long titanium steel rods in her spine in an effort to fuse it back together. Although the operation was a success, it traumatized her body to such a degree that she lay nearly immobilized for weeks. Estefan returned home to Miami three months after the accident, where she was greeted by television cameras and an emotionally charged crowd at the airport. She began intense physical therapy, and had to adhere to a strict diet and a grueling exercise program to help regain her strength and mobility. For months she would awaken nearly every hour in her sleep from the lingering pain in her back and legs.

The memories of caring for her increasingly disabled father, who had passed away in 1980, also pushed Estefan through the rehabilitation process. "All my life I've been afraid of becoming an invalid," she recalled to People reporter Steve Dougherty. "He was a very athletic, strong and handsome man. For years and years I watched him weaken and die. I saw what it did to the people around him---to his family. I've had a premonition all my life that I would become a burden to the people I love." Prior to the accident, Estefan had had an elevator installed in a house she and Emilio were building in Miami, for the ostensible purpose of moving musical equipment. "But in the back of my mind, I knew what it was really for. So when I was lying in the bus, I thought ‘Here it is. This is the thing I've been waiting for.’"

Less than six months after the crash, Estefan performed in public for the first time on the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon to a standing ovation. By that time she was also working in the studio and writing songs for an upcoming album, Into the Light. Its first single was "Coming Out of the Dark," a gospel-inspired melody that Emilio had begun to write while they were en route to the New York hospital for the surgery. Other tracks on Into the Light included "Nayib's Song," an ode to her son, and "Close My Eyes."

"I wanted this album to be a very freeing experience for me," Estefan told Detroit Free Press music writer Gary Graff. "I wanted my vocal performance[s] to be much more emotional, and I think they are. The emotions are right there on the surface. I was very happy when I started singing again … and I wanted to share that feeling." Estefan embarked on another major tour for Into the Light only a year after her accident. Although doctors had predicted that it would take her three to five years to achieve the level of mobility and fitness that her performing schedule demanded, she soon returned to the same energetic movements onstage. "I just have to make sure I don't do crazy things, like backflips off the stage," she explained to Dougherty.

Estefan's musical style is credited with helping make Latin-flavored pop music, based on the rhythms of her native Cuba, a tremendous crossover success.

Critics pointed to Estefan's increasing success over the years as a turning point for American pop music, help- ing it to reflect the nation's growing Hispanic minority and influence. Record sales hovered near the ten million mark for the Sound Machine, and later in Estefan's solo career, seemed to awaken major labels to the possibilities of other Spanish-language acts. In 1993 Estefan recorded and released an album of Spanish-language songs titled Mi Tierra. The record, which means "My Land," achieved sales of over 1.3 million, holding at number one on the Latin charts and number 27 on the pop charts. The work also featured performances by percussionist Sheila E. and the late Cuban musician Tito Puente.

In early 1994 Estefan was invited by the Grammy Awards to perform a song in Spanish for the telecast, a first for the music industry ceremony. Further proof of Estefan's impact on the music business came with the success of another Cuban American performer. She and her husband had discovered a young Miami resident named Jon Secada, and Emilio became his manager. Secada went on tour with Estefan for almost a year before the release of his solo debut album, which made him an international success. "Gloria was very important to the Latin scene," Secada told San Jose Mercury News contributor Harry Sumrall. "She opened all the doors and set a good example to the Latin community."

Late in 1993 Estefan released a holiday-themed recording of classic Christmas songs reworked with a Latin flavor. In 1994 she released an album of covers titled Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Its title track became the first hit single, and the record included Estefan's versions of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" as well as the 1970s-era disco hits "Cherchez la Femme" and "Turn the Beat Around." The latter also appeared on the soundtrack to the 1994 Sylvester Stallone/Sharon Stone film The Specialist. A People review of Estefan's Hold Me granted that while "she does a fine job updating oldies … most of her takes on other singers' hits sound too perfunctory to be essential."

In the mid-1990s Estefan took a hiatus from performing when she had another child. Doctors had warned her that becoming pregnant again might place too much pressure on her fused spine and endanger her life, but the pregnancy went well and daughter Emily Marie was delivered by Caesarean section in late 1994. The family, including teenaged son Nayib and two Dalmatians named Ricky and Lucy, settled in the Miami area. Estefan also became involved with a Cuban restaurant she and her husband opened in the city's trendy South Beach area.

Estefan's success has made her more than just a local celebrity in her hometown. She is known as "Nuestra Glorita," or "Our Gloria," and is revered by Miami's populous Cuban community as a sort of symbol of their own success. While grateful for her success, Estefan herself has remained philosophical about her life, and credits the brush with tragedy for changing everything about her. "It's very hard to stress me out now," the singer told Dougherty. "It's hard to get me in an uproar about anything because most things have little significance compared with what I almost lost."

Estefan took these positive feelings to her next effort, the Spanish-language Abriendo Puertas ("Opening Doors"). Although the recording featured holiday-oriented songs juxtaposed against Latin American rhythms, Estefan was quick to define it as not just another Christmas album. "There's Christmas music, and then there's this record," she explained to Billboard 's John Lahnert. "Some of these songs hopefully will live on way beyond Christmas because of the positive messages and interesting rhythms."

Estefan's Destiny album of 1996 went platinum, and her worldwide Evolution tour that year grossed $14 million in North America alone. In 1998 she was selected to appear on the annual "Divas Live!" telecast on VH-1, and her film acting debut in Music of the Heart in 1999 earned an ALMA at the award ceremony the following year. She was also honored at the 1999 ALMA ceremony with a lifetime achievement award. In addition to her performance as Isabel Vasquez in Music of the Heart, the film soundtrack featured Estefan on the title track in a duet with 'N Sync, which won the performers a Blockbuster Award. In 2000 Estefan won a Latin Grammy Award for best music video for "No Me Dehes De Querer," and at the traditional Grammy Awards ceremony in 2001 she received the award for best traditional Latin tropical album for Alma Caribeña, released in 2000.

Estefan's music took an introspective turn with the release of Unwrapped in 2003. Unlike her previous work, the songs revealed a more personal point of view and eschewed dance rhythms. Estefan, along with her husband, also handled production and invited a number of high-profile guests to participate in the project. StevieWonder added vocals to "Into You," while former Pretenders' vocalist Chrissie Hynde joined Estefan on "One Name." Unwrapped rose to number 39 on the Billboard 200, while the single "Wrapped" rose to number 23 on the Adult Contemporary chart. "Actually, she's outdone any previous effort, in English or Spanish, with Unwrapped," noted Metro Weekly. "For the first time, Estefan has written the lyrics to every song and anchored her music more in mid-tempo organic rock stylings than in uptempo programmed pop."

In 2006 two Estefan compilations were released, The Essential Gloria Estefan, a two-CD set, and Oye Mi Canto!: Los Grandes Exitos, featuring her Spanish language work. The latter album also reached number 12 on the Latin Pop Albums chart.

Late in 2007 Estefan released her fourth Spanish language album, 90 Millas, a title noting the distance between Key West, Florida, and Cuba. Once again, she collaborated with a number of artists, including Carlos Santana, Andy Garcia, and La India. 90 Millas was well received. "Ever since Gloria Estefan split from Miami Sound Machine in 1989 to go solo," wrote Jason Birchmeier in All Music Guide, "her best efforts tended to be her Spanish-language ones, and her fourth such album, 90 Millas, is no exception." Estefan also toured to support the album, performing dates in the Netherlands and Las Ventas, Spain.

Besides performing, Estefan and her husband own a number of Cuban restaurants in Florida and Mexico, along with two hotels. The Estefans' net worth was estimated at $500 million in 2007. Gloria Estefan received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Medallion of Excellence for Community Service in 2002 for her philanthropic work.

Selected discography

Eyes of Innocence, Discos CBS, 1984.

Primitive Love, Epic, 1985.

Let It Loose, Epic, 1987.

Cuts Both Ways, Epic, 1989.

Into the Light, Epic, 1991.

Greatest Hits, Epic, 1992.

Mi Tierra, Epic, 1993.

Christmas through Your Eyes, Sony/Epic, 1993.

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Epic, 1994.

Abriendo Puertas, Epic, 1995.

Destiny, Epic, 1996.

Gloria!, Sony, 1998.

Alma Caribeña, Sony, 2000.

Unwrapped, Sony, 2003.

The Essential Gloria Estefan, Sony, 2006.

Oye Mi Canto!: Los Grandes Exitos, Sony, 2006.

90 Millas, Sony, 2007.

Sources

Books

Gonzalez, Fernando, Gloria Estefan: Cuban-American Singing Star, Millbrook Press, 1993.

Periodicals

Billboard, September 2, 1995.

Detroit Free Press, January 27, 1991; August 21, 1991.

Detroit News, June 25, 1992; November 25, 1993; November 19, 1994.

Entertainment Weekly, June 25, 1993; July 30, 1993.

Miami Herald, November 2, 1994.

People, April 9, 1990; June 25, 1990; February 18, 1991 October 31, 1994.

Rolling Stone, June 14, 1990.

San Jose Mercury News, February 23, 1995.

Online

"Gloria Estefan," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (January 7, 2008).

"Rent Controlled," Metropolitan Weekly,http://www.metroweekly.com/arts_entertainment/music.php?ak=721 (January 7, 2007).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Epic press materials, 1995.

—Carol Brennan and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

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Estefan, Gloria

Gloria Estefan

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Began Singing Career on a Lark

Played to Stadium Crowds in Latin America

A Household Name by 1990

Accident Revived Memories for Estefan

Adored by Miamis Cuban American Community

Selected discography

Sources

The path of Gloria Estefans career might be best traced through the successive names of the musical ensemble of which she has been a member since the mid-1970s: she joined the Miami Latin Boys as a teenaged vocalist; her band mates then renamed themselves the Miami Sound Machine. Estefan eventually became their primary singer, and, in a little over a decade, her energetic fronting of the band and its burgeoning pop success led to its rechristening as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. By the mid-1990s, nearly twenty years into her career, the singer and songwriter had finally achieved solo billing.

Estefan was originally a Spanish-language performer but switched to English as the Miami Sound Machine began receiving more recognition. Over the years Estefans recordings have sold millions and made her an international star. Her musical style is credited with helping make Latin-flavored pop musicbased on the rhythms of her native Cubaa tremendous crossover success. In 1993 she returned to her first language and released an album of songs in Spanish. Although Estefans early years in the entertainment industry were marked by a terrible, recurring stage fright, she has metamorphosed into a sultry international pop star known for her showstopping performances. Estefan still lives in her hometown of Miami, Florida, where she is revered by its large Cuban American community. Adding to the drama of her rags-to-riches life story, in 1990 Estefan survived a near-fatal bus accident that could have put her in a wheelchair permanently.

Estefan was born in Cuba in 1957 to Gloria, a school-teacher, and Jose Manuel Fajardo, who worked as a bodyguard for the countrys dictatorial leader, Fulgen-cio Batista. When Communist forces, led by Fidel Castro, took over a year later, the Fajardo family fled to Miami; Estefans father later went back on a military mission funded by the U.S. government and was captured by his own cousins and imprisoned. After eighteen months, President John F. Kennedy negotiated his release. Jose Fajardo then joined the U.S. military, and the family, which by then included Glorias younger sister Becky, relocated several times as he transferred from base to base. Eventually he was sent to Vietnam.

As a child Estefan attended Catholic schools and began taking on an increasing amount of responsibility in her family. Her mother first attended college, then worked outside the home, and Gloria did many of the household chores. Her father, after returning from the war in 1968, was stricken with multiple sclerosis as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. The adolescent Estefan looked after her disabled father for part of the day. She found solace from the burdens in singing. It was my release from everything, my escape, Estefan

For the Record

Born Gloria Fajardo, September 1,1957, in Havana, Cuba; immigrated to the United States, 1959; daughter of Jose Manuel (a bodyguard to Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista) and Gloria (a schoolteacher) Fajardo; married Emilio Estefan, Jr. (a musician), September 1, 1978; children: Nayib, Emily Marie. Education: Received B.A. in psychology from the University of Miami.

Worked as a customs translator at Miami International Airport, mid-1970s; joined group Miami Latin Boys (also billed as the Miami Latin Kings), 1975; groups name changed to Miami Sound Machine; other members included Enrique Garcia, Juan Marcos Avila, and Emilio Estefan, Jr. Toured Latin America and Europe numerous times, 1976-84; had several hit albums in Spanish. First million-selling, English-language, American album, Primitive Love, 1986. Represented United States at the Pan American Games, 1987. Solo performer since the early 1990s. Founder and owner, with husband, Emilio, of Larios on the Beach, a Cuban cuisine restaurant in Miami, FL.

Awards: Songwriter of the Year, BMI, 1988; lifetime achievement award, Premio lo Nuestro Musica Latina, 1992.

Addresses: Home Star Island, FL. Record companyEpic Records, 51 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019.

told Rolling Stone reporter Daisann McLane. Id lock myself up in my room with my guitar, a birthday gift her mother had ordered from Spain. I wouldnt cry. I would sing for hours by myself. The popular music of the era, especially British acts like the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, were a strong influence on her.

Began Singing Career on a Lark

The singer met her future husband, Emilio Estefan, at a wedding in 1975. He was playing the disco hit The Hustle on an accordion. Smitten with the young Cuban emigre, Gloria, along with her cousin Merci, offered to sing in Estefans local combo for free. Within a year, she was singing with the bandthen called the Miami Latin Boys but sometimes billed as the Miami Latin Kingsat local weddings and had enrolled in the University of Miami as a psychology major. At the time, however, she was still a shy, overweight teenager; band mate Emilio

Estefan, though, was considered the catch of the town. His work as a percussionist and manager of the Latin Boys, soon to be renamed the Miami Sound Machine, was only a hobby for the workaholic. He worked for Bacardi, eventually rising to the post of director of Hispanic marketing for the rum importing company.

The couple began a flirtation during the hours they spent together rehearsing and performing. They married in September of 1978, after Gloria had graduated from college. Meanwhile, she was becoming a more integral member of the Sound Machine, by this time a phenomenally popular Miami act that also included Enrique Garcia and Juan Marcos Avila. Estefan further honed her vocal style, learned more about the Cuban music of her roots, and became a percussionist as well. It was also around the time of the couples marriage that the Miami Sound Machine recorded their first album, Renacer, on a Miami-based label. A rough collection of original Spanish-language ballads and disco pop, it was produced on a budget of $2000, but Estefans warm, distinctive purr comes through, wrote McLane in Rolling Stone.

By 1980 Emilio Estefan had recognized that the bands soundwith its blend of Cuban rhythms and American pop sensibilitieshad surefire potential. He resigned from Bacardi in order to take the Sound Machines local success onto another level, a move that also coincided with the arrival of the couples first child, a boy they named Nayib. As the bands full-time manager, Emilio won a recording contract with the Hispanic division of CBS Records, called Discos CBS. Estefan performed as vocalist on four of the albums the Sound Machine recorded for the company during the early 1980s and also wrote some of the bands songs.

Played to Stadium Crowds in Latin America

With such major-label backing, the Miami Sound Machine quickly became a success south of the border. Writing of this early period, McLane explained that their sound was derivative, but for Latin American fans, Miami Sound Machine was uniquethe first band that played state-of-the-art American pop rock and spoke the right language. In Venezuela and Peru, Panama and Honduras, their records shot to Number One. The band wielded their success in the Hispanic market when they convinced CBS to put out an English-language album.

The first crossover release for the Miami Sound Machine, and Estefans debut record in English, was 1984s Eyes of Innocence. Its first single, a disco tune called Dr. Beat, made appearances on European charts. Next, the band signed on a local trio called the JerksRafael Vigil, Joe Galdo, and Lawrence Dermerwhom Emilio had met when they were recording a jingle for a commercial. The Jerks had been working on a salsa-influenced aerobics record, and some of the tracks they penned appeared on the Sound Machines next album, 1985s Primitive Love. The hugely successful release catapulted both Estefan and the group into international pop superstardom with the singles Bad Boys, Words Get in the Way, and Conga. At that point, Emilio left the band to take over as a full-time manager and producer.

The Jerks also worked on the Sound Machines 1987 album, Let It Loose, but quit after disagreements with Emilioalso listed as producerover creative and financial differences. Other personnel changes in the Sound Machineincluding the departure of founding drummer Enrique Garciaalso plagued the group during these years. Estefan was needled by her husband to change her look and become more outgoing on stage. Emilio saw a side of me that I didnt let people see, and he wanted that to come out to people, Estefan said of her husband in the Rolling Stone interview with McLane. He was trying to make me confident, but I couldve smacked him. At the beginning, everybody would always accuse me of being stuck up, cause I was shy. But a performer cant afford to be shy.

A Household Name by 1990

Estefans increasing confidence and ebullience helped propel record and concert sales through the roof, success she and the band could hardly have imagined. Let It Loose sold 4 million copies, spurred by its hit single1-2-3. In 1988 Estefan won the prestigious BMI Song writer of the Year award. She penned several of the songs for Cuts Both Ways a 1989 effort. It also sold well into the millions, and international tours to support the releases were often marked by sell-out crowds. By now the act was billed as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

In 1990 the nonstop touring that had marked much of Estefans career came to an abrupt halt when she was involved in a serious accident. The bands tour bus had stopped before a stalled, jackknifed semitrailer on a snowy highway in Pennsylvania one March night. The vehicle was hit from the rear by another truck, and Estefan was catapulted to the floor from the berth in which she had been sleeping. Her husband and nine-year-old son were only slightly injured, but the impact broke Estefans back. Fans feared from early news reports that the singer might be paralyzed for life.

The public outpouring of support for the critically injured Estefan was overwhelming. Some radio stations in Miami began playing her songs nearly nonstop, and a 1-900 number was set up for well-wishers to leave messages. Cards, flowers, and presents flooded her hospital room, first in Scranton, Pennsylvania, then in New York City, where she was later transferred. Even thenPresident George Bush called twice to wish the singer well.

In New York, surgeons implanted two eight-inch-long titanium steel rods in her spine in an effort to fuse it back together. Although the operation was a success, it traumatized her body to such a degree that she lay nearly immobilized for weeks. Estefan returned home to Miami three months after the accidentin a plane belonging to friend Julio Iglesiasto television cameras and an emotionally charged crowd at the airport. She began intense physical therapy and had to adhere to a strict diet and a grueling exercise program to help regain her strength and mobility. For months she would awaken nearly every hour in her sleep from the lingering pain in her back and legs.

Accident Revived Memories for Estefan

The memories of caring for her increasingly disabled father, who had passed away in 1980, also pushed Estefan through the rehabilitation process. All my life Ive been afraid of becoming an invalid, she recalled to People reporter Steve Dougherty. He was a very athletic, strong and handsome man. For years and years I watched him weaken and die. I saw what it did to the people around himto his family. Ive had a premonition all my life that I would become a burden to the people I love. Prior to the accident, Estefan had had an elevator installed in a house she and Emilio were building in Miami, for the ostensible purpose of moving musical equipment. But in the back of my mind, I knew what it was really for. So when I was lying in the bus, I thought Here it is. This is the thing Ive been waiting for.

Less than six months after the crash. Estefan performed in public for the first time on the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon to a standing ovation. By that time, she was also working in the studio and writing songs for an upcoming album. Entitled Into the Light, its first single was Coming Out of the Dark, a gospel-inspired melody that Emilio had begun to write while they were en route to the New York hospital for the surgery. Other tracks on Into the Light include Nayibs Song, an ode to her son, and Close My Eyes.

I wanted this album to be a very freeing experience for me, Estefan told Detroit Free Press music writer Gary Graff. I wanted my vocal performance to be much more emotional, and I think they are. The emotions are right there on the surface. I was very happy when I started singing again and I wanted to share that feeling. Estefan embarked on another major tour for Into the Light only a year after her accident. Although doctors had predicted that it would take her three to five years to achieve the level of mobility and fitness that her performing schedule demanded, she soon returned to the same energetic movements onstage. I just have to make sure I dont do crazy things, like backflips off the stage, she explained to Dougherty.

Critics point to Estefans increasing success over the years as a turning point for American pop music, helping it to reflect the nations growing Hispanic minority and influence. Record sales hovering near the 10 million mark for the Sound Machine, and later in Estefans solo career, seemed to have awakened major labels to the possibilities of other Spanish-language acts. In 1993 Estefan recorded and released an album of Spanish-language songs entitled Mi Tierra. The record, which means My Land, achieved sales of over 1.3 million, holding at Number One on the Latin charts and Number 27 on the pop charts. The work also featured performances by percussionist Sheila E. and noted Cuban musician Tito Puente.

In early 1994 Estefan was invited by the Grammy Awards to perform a song in Spanish for the telecast, a first for the music industry ceremony. Further proof of Estefans impact on the music business came with the success of another Cuban American performer. She and her husband had discovered a young Miami resident named Jon Secada, and Emilio became his manager. Secada went on tour with Estefan for almost a year before the release of his solo debut album, which made him an international success. Gloria was very important to the Latin scene, Secada told San Jose Mercury News contributor Harry Sumrall. She opened all the doors and set a good example to the Latin community. Late in 1993 Estefan released a holiday-themed recording of classic Christmas songs reworked with a Latin flavor. It also included a few original songs. Next, she released an album of covers in 1994 entitled Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Its title track became the first hit single, and the record included Estefans versions of Breaking Up Is Hard to Do as well as the 1970s-era disco hits Cherchez la Femme and Turn the Beat Around. The latter also appeared on the soundtrack to the 1994 Sylvester Stallone/Sharon Stone film The Specialist. A People review of Estefans Hold Me granted that while she does a fine job updating oldies most of her takes on other singers hits sound too perfunctory to be essential.

Adored by Miamis Cuban American Community

In the mid-1990s Estefan took a hiatus from performing when she had another child. Doctors had warned her that becoming pregnant again might place too much pressure on her fused spine and endanger her life, but the pregnancy went well and daughter Emily Marie was delivered by Caesarean section in late 1994. The familyincluding teenaged son Nayib and two Dalmatians named Ricky and Lucylives in the Miami area in a residential enclave called Star Island, onetime home to actor Don Johnson and former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Estefan also became involved with a Cuban restaurant she and her husband opened in the citys trendy South Beach area.

Estefans success has made her more than just a local celebrity in her hometown. She is known as Nuestra Glorita, or Our Gloria, and is revered by Miamis populous Cuban community as a sort of symbol of their own success. (Nearly ostracized as newly arrived exiles to Florida only 30 years before, Cuban Americans in the 1990s had gained enormous social, political, and economic influence in the state.) While grateful for her success, Estefan herself remains philosophical about her lifeand credits the brush with tragedy for changing everything about her. Its very hard to stress me out now, the singer told People magazines Dougherty. Its hard to get me in an uproar about anything because most things have little significance compared with what I almost lost. So many people [got] behind me and gave me a reason to want to come back fast and made me feel strong. Knowing how caring people can be, how much they gave methat has changed me forever.

Estefan took these positive feelings to her next effort, the Spanish-language, Abriendo puertas (title means opening doors). Although the recording features holiday oriented songs juxtaposed against Latin American rhythms, Estefan is quick to define it as not just another Christmas album. Theres Christmas music, and then theres this record, she explained to Billboard magazines John Lahnert. Some of these songs hopefully will live on way beyond Christmas because of the positive messages and interesting rhythms. Featuring a blend of Latin American musicians, the album reflects Este-fans hopes to open even more doors for this kind of music. You have to reach a certain level where you have a strong enough fan base where they will be curious about what you do and theyll listen to itI think my fans are going to hopefully like the direction weve moved into and grown into, since all of these projects eventually become a part of you.

Selected discography

Eyes of Innocence, Discos CBS, 1984.

Primitive Love, Epic, 1985.

Let It Loose, Epic, 1987.

Cuts Both Ways, Epic, 1989.

Into the Light, Epic, 1991.

Greatest Hits, Epic, 1992.

Mi Tierra, Epic, 1993.

Christmas through Your Eyes, Sony/Epic, 1993.

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Epic, 1994.

Abriendo Puertas, Epic, 1995.

Sources

Books

Gonzalez, Fernando, Gloria Estefan: Cuban-American Singing Star, Millbrook Press, 1993.

Periodicals

Billboard, September 2, 1995.

Detroit Free Press, January 27, 1991; August 21, 1991.

Detroit News, June 25,1992; November 25,1993; November 19, 1994.

Entertainment Weekly, June 25, 1993; July 30, 1993.

Miami Herald, November 2, 1994.

People, April 9, 1990; June 25, 1990; February 18, 1991 October 31, 1994.

Rolling Stone, June 14, 1990.

San Jose Mercury News, February 23, 1995.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Epic press materials, 1995.

Carol Brennan

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Estefan, Gloria

GLORIA ESTEFAN

Born: Gloria Fajardo; Havana, Cuba, 1 September 1957

Genre: Latin, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Mi Tierra (1993)

Hit songs since 1990: "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," "Turn the Beat Around"


Gloria Estefan, the "Queen of Latin Pop," gained prominence in the early 1980s as the singer for the successful Latin disco group, Miami Sound Machine. However, she ultimately outgrew the band and as a solo artist blazed a trail that led the way for other Latin pop stars. Estefan's life story is a testimony of grit and courage and her rags-to-riches success serves as a torch for Cuban Americans.


Life in a New Land

Estefan was born in Havana, Cuba, but fled with her family when she was two years old after Fidel Castro came into power. Her father, Jose Fajardo, was a military man and returned to Cuba in 1961 to take part in the Bay of Pigs invasion where he was captured, reportedly by his own cousin. After eighteen months in prison, President John F. Kennedy secured his release. Shortly after his home-coming, Fajardo enlisted in the service and fought for the United States against North Vietnam. Meanwhile, Estefan's mother forged a life in a new land for herself and two daughters, which grew increasingly more complicated after Fajardo returned from Vietnam with advanced multiple sclerosis. Estefan's preteen years were spent as caregiver to both her invalid father and younger sister while her mother worked. Nevertheless, she managed to achieve excellent grades while attending Catholic school. Socially dormant, her primary source of release was playing guitar and singing pop songs alone in her room.

While attending a wedding dance, Estefan was asked to take the stage and sing with the band. Despite a lingering shynesswhich hampered her performing for years to comeshe sang and impressed the band's leader, Emilio Estefan. Soon Estefan became their singer and linked romantically with Emilio. The band's name was changed to the Miami Sound Machine and they achieved local success in Miami with a Latin-style disco sound. Estefan performed with them while attending the University of Miami from which she graduated in 1978 summa cum laude in communications. She and Emilio married in 1978.

In 1980 Emilio Estefan quit his high-paying position as director of Hispanic marketing with Bacardi and began managing the Miami Sound Machine full time. He secured a record deal with an Hispanic division of CBS Records and the band recorded a string of Spanish-language albums with a more effervescent Gloria Estefan slowly shaking the stage fright that plagued her early on. The band's success grew along with Estefan's confidence as a performer and they changed their name to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. They were a major draw in Spanish countries, in Spanish-American neighborhoods, and by 1984 moved into the American pop mainstream with their first English-language album, Eyes of Innocence (1984). Subsequent recordings sold well, but Estefan was the main attraction. Although the Miami Sound Machine played on Cuts Both Ways (1989), it was principally Estefan's first solo effort and she wrote seven of the hit-filled album's ten songs. Estefan's popularity was soaring, not only in America and surrounding Spanish-speaking countries but in Europe as well. She captivated live audiences with her outgoing stage presence, robust dancing, and intelligent sex appeal. They were fascinated by such a huge voice pouring out from such a petite body and she charmed them with her down-to-earth chatter between songs. Cuts Both Ways features equal helpings of ballads, funky dance music, and pop influenced by her native Cuban rhythmsa trend that would continue. Yet it nearly did not.


Dealing with Adversity

During a snowstorm on March 20, 1990, the tour bus carrying a sleeping Estefan and her family was tail-ended by an oncoming semi-truck on a Pennsylvania highway. Emilio and their nine-year-old son, Nayib, were only slightly injured but Estefan's condition was grave. She had broken her back and came frighteningly close to being paralyzed. Doctors inserted two eight-inch steel rods into her back to help fuse the spine, but the recovery was painful and slow. Additionally, the mental picture of herself as an invalid needing care in the same way that her father lived his last days was petrifying for Estefan. She worked tirelessly during an extended rehab and made her remarkable first appearance six months later on Jerry Lewis's Muscular Dystrophy Telethon to a standing ovation.

Estefan's next recording, Into the Light (1991), reflects the gravity of the previous year and her rich vocals are full of emotion. The album contains an ode to her son with "Nayib's Song" and a heavy reflection on her accident in the ballad "Coming out of the Dark," which was written by her husband.

Having achieved complete crossover success into English-speaking markets, Estefan paid tribute to her heritage by releasing a Spanish-language album, Mi Tierra (1993). The Grammy Awardwinning album was surprisingly stellar in all markets, selling over 10 million copies. She demonstrated her bicultural attitude by following with Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (1994), an album of her favorite American music from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Although doctors feared complications from the accident would hinder her ability to have another child, Estefan successfully gave birth to a second, Emily, in 1994. The time off allowed her to reflect on a career that has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide while having been showered with numerous awards, including three Grammy Awards. Additionally, she and Emilio operate Estefan Enterprises. The Miami Beach conglomerate consists of entertainment ventures such as talent management, songwriting, publishing, recording, and film and television studios, in addition to restaurants and hotels. Together they have amassed a fortune estimated to be $250 million.

Estefan finished out the 1990s by continuing to record successful albums including a Spanish album, Abriendo Puertas (1995), before returning to her signature Latin-influenced pop and ballads with Destiny (1996). Gloria (1998), mostly 1970s dance music, was followed by another Spanish effort, Alma Caribena: Caribbean Soul (2000).

Through the years, Estefan has increased her interest in politics. She has been embroiled in numerous issues affecting Cuban Americans including the case of Cuban refugee, six-year-old Elian Gonzalez, who entered the United States after his mother drowned while they were fleeing Cuba. Estefan angered some when she lobbied for the boy to remain in the United States as opposed to his being returned to his father in Cuba. After intervention by the United States government, Gonzalez was sent back to his homeland.

Estefan's musical efforts tactfully straddle an allegiance to her Spanish culture while continuing to maintain a global appeal. Her success in the 1980s paved the way for pop stars in the forefront of Latin-influenced music such as Mark Anthony, Ricky Martin, and Jennifer Lopez.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Cuts Both Ways (Epic, 1989); Into the Light (Epic, 1991); Mi Tierra (Epic, 1993); Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (Epic, 1994); Abriendo Puertas (Epic, 1995); Destiny (Epic, 1996); Alma Caribena: Caribbean (Epic, 2000); Greatest Hits, Vol. I (Epic, 1992); Greatest Hits, Vol. II (Epic, 2001). With Miami Sound Machine: Eyes of Innocence (CBS, 1984); Primitive Love (Epic, 1985); Let It Loose (Epic, 1987).

donald lowe

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Estefan, Gloria

Gloria Estefan

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Gloria Estefan has become the leading force behind the Miami Sound Machine, a Latin-influenced pop band with a series of spicy dance hits. Born in Cuba but raised in Miami, the sultry Estefan had to overcome crippling shyness in order to perform; she blossomed just at the moment when her group began to write songs in English. Today, Estefan is not only the principal singer in the Miami Sound Machine, but also the bands manager of groupoperations. Together, Estefan and her partnershusband Emilio Estefan, Jr., Enrique Garcia, and Juan Marcos Avilahave forged a bright, salsafied pop that has given Americans a new dance beat, toquote People contributor Linda Marx.

The members of Miami Sound Machine, Estefan included, were born in Cuba. Their families became refugees to America during the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. In Gloria Estefans case, her father was a bodyguard to dictator Fulgencio Batistas family; after moving to the United States he worked for the American military. Her mother had been a schoolteacher in Cuba, so after learning Englishand teaching it to young Gloriashe earned a masters degree and went back to work. Gloria was placed in charge of the housekeeping at an early age, thus binding her to her home at a time when other children were forming social ties. She told People that she spent hours listening to the radio. I would sit in my room and sing Top 40 songs and teach myself how to play guitar enough to accompany them, she said.

A career in pop music was not even a dream for Estefan. The shy young woman attended a Catholic girls school and the University of Miami, where she majored in psychology. In 1975 she joined a local band, the Miami Latin Boys, and began to perform more or less as a hobby. Three years latershe married the groups percussionist, Emilio Estefan, and their combo, renamed the Miami Sound Machine, began to attract attention.

For more than six years the Miami Sound Machine was better known outsidethe United States than within it. The groups straightforward Spanish-language pop music became a hit in Latin America, and in the early 1980s Estefan and her partners were packing soccer stadiums in Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and Guatemala. They also cut an album that sold one million copies in Europe but did very little business in America. It was kind of strange, Estefan told the Detroit Free Press. Wedplay those [big] shows, then come back to Miami where we were just a local club band.

At the same time, Estefan was wrestling with her shyness. Detroit FreePress correspondent Gary Graff claims that the singer used to try to hide behind the

For the Record

Born c. 1958 in Havana, Cuba; daughter of a bodyguard to Fulgencio Batista and a schoolteacher; married Emilio Estefan, Jr. (a musician), 1978; children: Nayib. Education: University of Miami, B.A. in psychology.

Joined group Miami Latin Boys, 1975; name changed to Miami Sound Machine; other members are Enrique Garcia, Juan Marcos Avila, and Emilio Estefan, Jr. Toured Latin America and Europe numerous times, 197684, had several hit albums in Spanish. Had first million-selling American album, Primitive Love, 1986. Represented United States at the Pan American Games, 1987.

Addresses: Record companyEpic Records, 51 W. 52nd St., New York, NY 10019.

congas rather than dance in front of them. Estefan told Graff: I remember I used to stand there and clutch the microphone and close my eyes and look down. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possiblewith a spotlight on me. Id videotape myself, and I hated it. I used to sit on the sofa and look through my fingers at the tape and just cringe. Estefan changed by a sheer act of will, and just in timegroup member Enrique Garcia started to write English lyrics for the Miami Sound Machine.

In 1986 Estefans band finally found an American audience. The album Primitive Love sold more than a million copies and produced three hit singles, Conga, Bad Boys, and Words Get in the Way. A subsequent release, Lei It Loose, contained the number one single 1-2-3. Suddenly, the Miami Sound Machine was in demand, and Gloria Estefanmarried and mother of a sonfound herself cast as a sex symbol. Now thats something I never expected to be, she told Graff. But I see where it could happen. And [husband] Emilios been working very hard for that image. Hes a businessman and he knows that image is going to help us sell records.

That image may help to sell records, but it is hardly enough in and of itself to guarantee success. Estefan bolsters her sex symbol looks with a velvety soprano voice and a dramatic flair that adds pitch to the uptempo numbers. Her accomplishment is so striking that the group she fronts has been renamed once again: it is now Gloria Estefan and theMiami Sound Machine. People think that was my idea, Estefan told Graff, but it really wasnt. The record company wanted me to have an identity. Estefans professional identity iscertainly assured, with two gold albums and more than five hit singles to her credit.

When not on tour, Estefan lives in Miami with her husband and son, Nayib. Her band has been honored in its hometown by having a major street named after itMiami Sound Machine Boulevard. Estefan told People that the television show Miami Vice has conjured up images of drugs and violence. Were goodwill ambassadors for [Miami]. The singer told Teen magazine that she has become successful because both her mother and grandmother were independent women who worked hard for their achievements. Ive grown up, she said, with a very strong example that women can really do anything they want to.

Selected discography

Eyes of Innocence, Epic.

Primitive Love, Epic, 1985.

Let It Loose, Epic, 1987.

Sources

Detroit Free Press, August 1, 1988.

People, October 27, 1986.

Teen, October, 1988.

Anne Janette Johnson

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