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Most Salsa music fans would agree that Celia Cruz honored the nickname “Salsa Music Queen”.
Celia established such a high standard that no one else been able to occupy the vacated thrown since her departure!
I had to write about Celia Cruz because this month we commemorate her 88 birthday (Oct 21) and this year marks the 10th anniversary of her departure.
Note: this blog was originally written in 2013. Today, in 2018, we commemorate the 15th anniversary of her departure.
1. Admired woman; a greatly admired woman who stands out above all others
2. Something having eminence or supremacy in a given domain and personified as a woman.
What Made Celia Cruz the Salsa Music Queen
I can think of 4 elements necessary for someone to become a Salsa Music Queen! Here are the first three:
Elegance – Celia was old-school on always dressing up for performances. She even showed up decently dressed for rehearsals. Since her days with La Sonora Matancera in Cuba, Celia Cruz always dressed superbly, and looked like a queen on stage!
Voice – One of Celia’s most obvious attributes was her powerful and beautiful voice. So much that she was selected as one of the top 50 voices of the 20th century in the world. This is for any type of music!
Rhythm – I got one word for you: “Quimbara”. Celia Cruz had rhythm and could sing anything. Rumba, boleros, son montunos, whatever. And Celia did it with such flavor and passion that she drew you into her performance. That was her “azucar”!
I love Celia Cruz’s songs, particularly her time with Johnny Pacheco, but the biggest impression “La Guarachera de Cuba” left on me was her elegance, respect, and sympathy. She always behaved like a lady and treated everyone with respect. Although she was clearly the best, you never heard that from her. She was humble, and her #1 priority was to entertain and make people happy with her songs.
The 4th Element of a Salsa Music Queen
Per the above definition of a queen, its someone “having supremancy”. Celia Cruz had it because she was at the top of the hit charts for such a long time. After overcoming some initial public resistance to her becoming the lead singer of the Sonora Matancera in 1950, Celia began collecting hit songs by the bunch, lasting 15 years with La Sonora Matancera.
Here’s Celia with the Sonora Matancera performing during in Cuba during the 1950’s. You can see the elegance and grace of Celia to go along her powerful voice.
After her exile to the United States following the Castro revolution, she began another chain of hits with Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colon, and others.
Celia exemplified that old artistic saying…”lo importante no es llegar, sino mantenerse” (the important thing is not to get (success) but to maintain it).
Celia Cruz was able to maintain her supremacy of Salsa music throughout her career. She didn’t drink or smoke, and avoided political controversy. She never had children, because she gave herself and her music, to us!
Google’s Tribute to Celia Cruz
Google paid tribute to Celia Cruz in 2013 commemorating her 88th birthday with the below customized logo on their main page! Wow! How many Latinos get that honor?