Yesterday, October 21st, was Celia Cruz’ birthday. Born Ursula Hilaria Celia de Caridad Cruz Alfonso (!) on this day in 1925, she burst upon the Cuban music scene after winning a radio contest in the early 50s. I wrote a profile on her in my book Rhythm Planet: The Great World Music Makers. I also saw her many times in LA in the 1980s and 1990s. She would come out on stage in a tight fan-tail dress and sing for over an hour without taking a drink of water, her body swaying gracefully even into her late 60s. She was called “La Reina de la Salsa”, The Queen of Salsa. She earned no less than 23 gold albums.
In this clip (sent to me by my Cuban friend Humberto Capiro), we see her in a 1960 Mexican film called “Hay Que Educar a Nini” (The Education of Nini). Celia, like Beny Moré and many other Cuban artists, left for the friendlier artistic climes of Mexico after Castro took power in 1959. She’s performing here with what I think was her greatest band, the low-flame, subtle, but smolderingly hot La Sonora Matancera. It’s really fun to watch. A gozar!