Cugat, Xavier (1900–1990)

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Cugat, Xavier (1900–1990)

Xavier Cugat (b. 1 January 1900; d. 27 October 1990), Spanish musician and bandleader. Born near Barcelona, Spain, Cugat immigrated to Cuba with his family in 1904. At age six, he appeared as a guest violinist with the Havana Symphony and became a full-time member of that orchestra in 1912. Later that same year, he moved to the United States. Unable to find work as a classical musician, he drew caricatures of movie stars for the Los Angeles Times until Rudolph Valentino asked him to organize a band to accompany him in a film requiring tango music. He and his band, the Gigolos, appeared in several films of the 1940s and 1950s, making his name a household word. He introduced the rumba to American audiences in his movies and through his appearances at clubs like the Coconut Grove, the Hotel Chase, and Al Capone's Chez Paris in Chicago, and a ten-year run at the Waldorf Astoria. His full-time career as a big band leader spanned from the 1940s to the 1960s. In 1986, he formed his last band and began touring Spain. He was married and divorced five times and had no children.

See alsoArnaz, Desi; Music: Popular Music and Dance.


Cugat wrote two books that best define his life, I, Cugat (1981) and My Wives. His work with his band is discussed in George T. Simon, The Big Bands, 4th ed. (1981). The introduction and effects of Latin American music in the United States is the subject of John S. Roberts, The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States (1979).

Additional Bibliography

Cushman, Gregory T. "¿De qué color es el oro? Race, Environment, and the History of Cuban National Music, 1898–1958." Latin American Music Review 26 (Fall/Winter 2005): 164-194.

Gasca, Luis. Cugat. Madrid: Ediciones del Imán, 1995.

                                  Jacquelyn Briggs Kent