Not Much Blues in Latin Music


I’ve been offline for the past 2 weeks due to a loss in my family. During this time, I realized Latin Music has little room for the sadness of a family loss.

As I searched my music library for music that could reflect my mood, I found only a handful of songs that could empathize with my grief. Here is what I found:

Salsa only has a handful of griefing songs

The first thoughts of a song which mourns the loss of a loved one, was Ruben Blades’ “Amor y Control” included in the album of the same name. This album, which he wrote around the time of his mother’s death, also includes “Canto a la Madre” and “Canto a la Muerte”. All 3 songs are in direct reference to his loss, although my favorite is “Amor y Control”.  As I continued to search for this kind of blue songs, I found very little.

Raphy Leavitt "La Cuna Blanca" Latin music sad song.
Raphy Leavitt’s “Jibaro Soy” Salsa album.

Then I remembered one of my first favorite Salsa songs; one of a handful of songs which made me want to follow Salsa music as my definite favorite genre when I was about 12 years old. Raphy Leavitt’s “La Cuna Blanca” is a beautiful song which tells the true story of the loss of La Selecta trumpeter Luis Maysonet in a car accident in which Raphy was also seriously injured (notice Raphy Leavitt’s bruised face in the “Jibaro Soy” album cover photo below). During Leavitt’s long comatose hospitalization following the accident, he had the vision which inspired “La Cuna Blanca”, which was included in the excellent album “Jibaro Soy”. You can read more about this song in Raphy Leavitt’s Wiki HERE.

There is something about this melancholic song which I never get tired of listening to. I can play “La Cuna Blanca” over and over again. Sammy Marrero, who already brings a dramatic style of signing, pours his heart out in this song, and the arrangement is strong from the very first note. The combination of the lyrics (“…ahora mis ojos lloran, se entristece mi cancion…”), the music, and knowing that Sammy Marrero’s emotional performance is based on true sorrow, just makes this song irresistible. I was so glad to have remembered this song and more than once felt my throat choke with emotion trying to sing along.

Below you can view and listen of one of my all-time favorites; “La Cuna Blanca”:

The last song I can recall in Salsa which deals with the loss of a loved one is Tite Curet Alonso’s “Estampa Marina”, included in Cheo Feliciano’s album “Estampas”. This is another superbly written song by Tite, but because it’s based on fiction, it doesn’t carry the same emotion as “Amor y Control” and “La Cuna Blanca”. However, the addition of a child’s voice saying goodbye for the last time to his father as he heads out to sea adds an extra element of realism to the song. Needless to say, it’s masterfully interpreted by Cheo Feliciano.

The Lighter Side of Death

In contrast with just the handful of songs that mourn the loss of a loved one, Salsa has plenty of songs that touch the lighter side of death. I can begin with Ruben Blades songs “La Cancion del Final del Mundo” and “La Cita”, both with his band Seis del Solar, and both quite funny.

El Gran Combo recorded twice the hit “La Muerte”, with singer Jerry Rivas giving us one of his best recording performances in the remake version. Cano Estremera also has fun with the song “Suicida” as part of the “Bobby Valentin Presenta al Cano Estremera” album. Like these, there are many other songs that talk about death on a lighter side, without particularly touching on the loss of a loved one.

There are no Blues in Latin Jazz

I don’t have the same depth of memory of Latin Jazz songs as I have of Salsa songs, but I can’t recall a single Latin Jazz tune that relates to the blues of losing a loved one. However, you wouldn’t get me to bet that in fact there isn’t one even if I were drunk.

Latin Jazz is a very versatile genre, and way back to the Machito “Kenya” album days, there are some songs that resemble the slow melody of a blues song, although without lyrics, it’s hard to tell if they are really songs mourning the loss of a loved one.

Latin Pop has Plenty of Sadness

Latin pop historically has had its good share of sad songs. Although most are from lost loves, and in that category, Salsa has a long list of songs as well, there are also several which grief the loss of a loved one. My favorite in this category has to be Juan Gabriel’s “Amor Eterno”. I have never been able to verify the rumors which say this song was inspired by the true loss of a baby by one of Juan Gabriel’s friends, and he wrote this song for her. Whether based on a true event or not, this is one of the most beautiful songs written in Latin Music, and especially great to listen to if played by a Mariachi.

The other very well known song in this sad category is Alberto Cortes’ “Cuando Un Amigo Se Va”, which he sings with conviction, emotion, and power. This is probably the most played song in Latin America when paying tribute to departed loved ones.

Although out of order, I’m going to share here the video of Ruben Blades “Amor y Control”. I consider it more of a Latin pop song than a Salsa song. Regardless, the message is beautiful.

Latin Music helps us live fully

In my opinion, Latin Music reflects our culture of happiness and persistence to overcome situations. It has always been based on happiness, although its many genres are versatile enough to accommodate any life situation. Latin Music is mostly happy because that is how we are. It helps us appreciate our heritage by enjoying the present moment and sending us to the future with a positive perspective in life.

That is what I get when I listen to a catchy Salsa song or to a well-composed Latin Jazz piece. Even Latin pop songs reflect the various situations of our day-to-day life.

I’m glad Latin Music is mostly upbeat music for upbeat people. However, I also like that it has some room for those situations when we lose a loved one.

Your comments are always welcome!

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  1. Sonny Cruz says

    I very much enjoy your blogging. It’s nice to read someone’s insights on music they are familiar with and give their personal views. I agree with much of what you have to say and point of views. thanks

  2. Jose O says

    Great article.

  3. Anibal Tony Crespo says

    Although most Latin music is truly uplifting to say the least. I grew up on Classic Boleros, which mostly dealt with the loss of love. I find that salsa lyrics in general are performed and played for having fun, one of my favorite is Payaso, by Raphy Leavitt y Orquesta La Selecta, Ismael Miranda and so many from the past brought a certain sorrow to the Latin Genre..

    I Enjoyed your commentary and would agree with it.

    1. Hector Aviles says

      I like classic boleros. Like Tite Curet used to say, boleros sing to the beginning or end of a relationship; never the middle of it. Funny but true!

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