Cruz, Celia (1925–2003)

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Cruz, Celia (1925–2003)

Born in Havana, Cuba, Celia Cruz (October 21, 1925–July 16, 2003) began her career singing for a tourist, earning a pair of shoes for her effort at the age of six. She participated in amateur radio contests, landing her first radio job as a backup singer. Hired as lead singer, Celia debuted with the band La Sonora Matancera on August 3, 1950. She left Cuba in July 1960, fleeing Fidel Castro's revolution, bound for Mexico with the band.

In 1973 Cruz performed as La Gracia Divina in Hommy, Larry Harlow's salsa opera at Carnegie Hall. Afterward, she relocated to New York City. She recorded "Celia y Johnny," with Fania Records co-founder Johnny Pacheco in 1974. It was a hit, and Celia signed with the Fania label. The Fania All Stars included Rubén Blades, Hector Lavoe, and Ray Barretto. Cruz also performed with bandleader Tito Puente hundreds of times.

In the male-dominated salsa world, Celia's powerful voice, improvisational abilities, and personality made her a superstar. To Cruz, the difference between the music she was singing in Cuba and salsa was imperceptible, but it was in the world of salsa where she achieved immortality. She recorded more than seventy albums. Cruz continued performing and recording until her death in Fort Lee, New Jersey, at age seventy-eight.

See alsoMusic: Popular Music and Dance .


Kent, Mary. Salsa Talks! A Musical Heritage Uncovered. Orlando, FL: Digital Domain, 2005.

Rondón, Cesar Miguel. El libro de la salsa: Crónica de la músic del Caribe urbano. Caracas, Venezuela, Editorial Arte, 1980.

                                   Mary Kent

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Cruz, Celia (1925–2003)

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