Celia’s big break came in 1950 when she joined the band Sonora Matancera. She stayed with the group for 15 years and recorded hundreds of songs with them. She also met her husband through the band, one of the trumpeters, Pedro Knight.
In 1960, after the Cuban revolution had broken out, Celia and her band were banned from returning to Cuba after accepting a contract in Mexico.
In the early 1960s, she became an American citizen and moved to New Jersey. With the help of her husband, Pedro, Celia decided to embark on a solo career, and she took off when she began making salsa music. When she was 49, she signed to Fania Records, a label dedicated to salsa music. She was the only female artist under the label at that time.
She continued to record and perform salsa music in venues across cities like New York and became loved for her wonderful energy, fabulous outfits, and beautiful voice. Even in her later years, Celia was a star.
Celia won her first Grammy award for Best Tropical Latin Album for her album Ritmo En El Corazón in 1989 at 64. She went on to win one more American Grammy and three Latin Grammys.
In addition to singing, Celia also starred in a series of films, television shows, and Mexican telenovelas. In 1994, she received the National Endowment for the Arts award from President Bill Clinton.
Celia continued capturing the hearts of audiences and salsa music lovers until the end of her life. She began her battle with cancer in 2002 but still recorded one more album, Regalo del Alma, which was released in February 2003. She died that same year in July at the age of 77.
Celia recorded over 80 albums and won over 100 awards throughout her career. Celia’s impact on the music industry was extremely strong, and it’s proven by the way her fans and artists continue to honor her today.
Documentaries and exhibits about her life have been shown in major cities, a school has been named after her, and she was even featured on a postage stamp. If you’re a Celia Cruz fan already, what’s your favorite song of hers?
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