A Cuban-American singer, Celia Cruz had risen to become one of the most recognized and influential Latin entertainers of her time as far as music was concerned. Many years after her death, the National Medal of Arts recipient is still a very significant individual. Here is all you want to know about her.
Celia Cruz Biography
It was as Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso that the singer was born on October 25, 1925, in Havana, Cuba. She was raised by her parents, Simón Cruz and Catalina Alfonso as one among 4 biological siblings and many other cousins and extended family members.
For her education, the girl who would grow to influence a lot of people with her singing went to Havana’s National Conservatory of Music. Before then, she attended a teacher’s school hoping she would end up as a literature teacher by the time she was done. Nevertheless, she found her way out after she won a singing competition and she was advised by people like her professor and long before then, her aunty, to pursue music as a career.
Also referred to as La Guarachera de Cuba, Celia Cruz began her official musical career in the 1940s with some early recordings she made, but it was until the 1950s that she really got the attention she rightly deserved. This was after she became a part of the La Sonora Matancera as its lead singer.
By the early 1960s, she was already in the United States, where she settled in New York. She would continue singing and rise to fame as the Queen of Salsa.
She has had many songs and albums such as Incomparable Celia (1958), Azucar Negra (1993), Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night of Salsa (1999), and many more. Her last words before her death were Unrepeatable (2002), Homenaje a Beny Moré (2003), as well as Regalo del Alma (2003), and Dios disfrute a la Reina (2004) which were released after her death.
Apart from music, the Queen of Salsa also got some roles to play in a number of movies such as Salón México (1950), Amorcito Corazon (1960), Fires Within (1991), and The Perez Family (1995) among other things including documentaries.
Through her musical career which was successful by almost all definitions, she won many awards including six Grammys, with the last two for Best Salsa Album (2004) for her Regalo del Alma as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. In 1994, she was honored by American President, Bill Clinton with the National Medal of Arts. It is worthy to note that although by birth she was not an American citizen, she was granted American citizenship in 1961.
Her Family, Husband, and Sister
As noted, the singer was raised in a very large family alongside her parents, immediate, and extended family members. Among 14 other children, she was one of the eldest, as such she naturally got to be very responsible very early in life. Her immediate siblings were Dolores Ramos, Gladys Bécquer, and Bárbaro Jiménez.
Her sister, Gladys Bécquer would go on after her death, to sue her husband and others for fraud, claiming that they denied her the stake she had in insurance money left to her by her late elder sister.
Talking about her husband, Celia was married to Pedro Knight Caraballo in 1962. The two would remain together until her death in 2003. Pedro Knight who was also a musician was her husband as well as her manager. Although they would spend the next 41 years together, the couple would have no children together.
He died in 2007 after suffering from diabetes. Before his death 4 years after his wife, he suffered from stroke and dementia.
Celia Cruz Life, Death, and Funeral
Popular for her uniques glittering dressing style, the Queen of Salsa bowed to death in 2003 following complications after brain cancer surgery. In December 2002, she had surgery to take off a brain tumor, after which she would go back to her music.
On July 16, 2003, however, she couldn’t survive a complication after surgery, and that was what led to her death after a great life.
Her funeral saw over 200,000 people who came to show their last respect after many vigils held in various parts of the world including the US, Colombia, and Cuba. She was laid to rest in a mausoleum at the Woodlawn Cemetery in New York, where Pedro Knight would join her less than 5 years later.