Celia Cruz was born Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso on October 21, 1925 in Havana, Cuba, the second of fourteen children. Growing up in Cuba’s diverse 1930s musical climate, she listened to many musicians that later influenced her adult career, such as Paulina Alvarez, Fernando Collazo and Abelardo Barroso. She started singing backup on many recordings by santaria singers.
As a teenager she sang in cabarets contrary to her father’s wishes of her becoming a teacher. Ironically one of her teachers told her she could make in one day what a teacher made in a month. Cruz began singing in Havana’s radio station Radio Garcia-Serra’s popular “Hora del Té” daily broadcast, won 1st prize, entered and won more contests, recorded for radio stations and made her debut album in Venezuela in 1948.
In 1950, Cruz made her first major breakthrough when she filled in with the Sonora Matacera and was hired permanently. Soon she was famous throughout Cuba and during her 15-year tenure toured throughout Latin America. Leaving Cuba upon Castro assumption of control she emigrated and became a U.S. citizen where she would team with Tito Puente and an eight record deal with Tico Records in the ‘60s that eventually led to joining pianist Larry Harlow and a headlining concert at Carnegie Hall.
Her 1974 album with Johnny Pacheco, Celia y Johnny, was very successful, and Cruz found herself in the Fania all-Stars and toured Europe, the Congo and Latin America. She went on to record in the film Soul Power, Eastern Airlines commercials, radio spots, star in the films Salsa and Mambo Kings, received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton, and won a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance.
On July 16, 2003, Celia Cruz, one of the most successful and influential Salsa performers of the 20th century, earning twenty-three gold albums, internationally renowned as the “Queen of Salsa” as well as “La Guarachera de Cuba” and worked predominately in the U.S and Latin America, died of a cancerous brain tumor. She has posthumously been honored with an exhibit celebrating her life in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. and an off-Broadway play titled Celia at the New World Stages that won four 2008 HOLA awards from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.
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Vinicius de Moraes was born Marcus Vinicius de Moraes on October 19, 1913 in Rio de Janiero, Brasil. As a child he was exposed to various musicians and composers and in high school he was writing his first compositions. He went on to graduate college at twenty and published two books of poetry.
Over the next several years he held a variety of banking, government and diplomatic positions while still writing and publishing his poetry. But it wasn’t until the ‘50s that he moved into the realm of pop culture. He studied film festival management, wrote his first samba, contributed lyrics to several classical pieces and in 1956 Vinicius staged his musical play Orfeu da Conceicao that would later become Orfeu Negro or Black Orpheus and win an Academy Award for Best For Language Film in 1959, a British Academy Award and the French Palm d’Or at Cannes.
Collaborating with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Moraes was at the fore when the bossa nova movement began with the release of Elizete Cardoso’s album Cancao do Amor Demais that consisted of the pairs music and a then unknown Joao Gilberto. They went on to compose Garota de Ipanema, Insensitez and Chega de Saudade. Vinicius’ songs would go on to be included in another Cannes winner Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and A Woman) in 1966.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Vinicius continued collaborating with many renowned Brazilian singers and musicians, in particular with Baden Powell venturing into Afro-Brazilian influences that came to be known as collectively as Afro-Sambas. A known bohemian and diplomat, Vinicius also had a problem with alcohol that ultimately had him drummed out of the diplomatic corps by the military regime. But with his new partner, guitarist and singer Toquinho, he continued to realize success on both music and literary landscapes releasing several popular and influential albums.
Vinicius de Moraes, composer, playwright and diplomat nicknamed O Poetinha (The Little Poet), passed away on July 9, 1980 in Rio de Janiero after a long spell of poor health. Hundreds of jazz musicians and performers worldwide have recorded more than 400 of his songs. In 2006 he was reinstated into the diplomatic corps and in 2010 was posthumously promoted to the post of Ambassador by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies.
A Summer Place was adapted from the Sloan Wilson novel into a 1959 film of the same name, at a time when divorce, adultery and teenage sexuality were taboo subjects and very controversial. The theme song which became a jazz standard was composed by Mack Discant and Max Steiner.
The Story: Focuses on the adult lives of two one-time teenage lovers, Ken and Sylvia, who were from different social strata. Ken was self-supporting, working as a lifeguard at a Maine island resort, while Sylvia’s family stayed as guests of the owners, one summer between years at college. After their summer love affair, they married other people, but rediscovered each other later in life. At that time, Sylvia has a son, Johnny, and Ken a daughter, Molly. While Ken and Sylvia renew their love affair, their children begin a romance.
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening enters into jazz history from the creative minds that scored the music and lyrics, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson, respectively. Taken from the 1944 musical film Higher and Higher starring Michele Morgan, Jack Haley and Frank Sinatra. Written It is loosely based on the 1940 Broadway musical written by Gladys Hurlbut and Joshua Logan. The film version diverges significantly from its source.
The Story: The household staff of millionaire Cyrus Drake hasn’t been paid for months when his bankruptcy is announced. With the wife and daughter of Cyrus on a long trip abroad, a scheme is formed to pass off the attractive young maid Millie as the socialite daughter, Pamela Drake, and marry her off to a rich man so there’ll be money for all.
The valet, Mike O’Brien, helps with the transformation, unaware that Millie is secretly in love with him. Asked if she’d ever been courted, Millie mentions that she likes the way a young man next door sometimes sings to her. His name is Frank.
The social secretary Sandy begins to teach Millie the proper etiquette and how to walk and talk like a debutante. At a coming-out ball, where Georgia Keating, a high-society friend of the Drakes, wants her daughter Katherine to be considered the most desirable deb, Millie is nudged toward Sir Victor Fitzroy, a nobleman she should marry.
No one there knows Victor can’t even pay his hotel bill. He’s hoping to catch a rich girl to pay off his own debts. Millie isn’t in love, but agrees to marry him for everyone’s sake. Mike mistakenly thinks she’s in love with Frank, so he helps Millie get out of the wedding at the last minute. To his surprise, Frank ends up paired up with Katherine, which frees Mike and Millie to finally begin their romance.
Amos Leon Thomas Jr was born on October 4, 1937 in East St. Louis, Illinois. He studied music at Tennessee State University and went on to become the vocalist for Count Basie and others in the Sixties. In 1969, Leon released his first solo album for the prestigious Flying Dutchman label, however, an earlier album he recorded still remains unreleased.
Thomas is best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song “The Creator Has a Master Plan” from the Karma album. His most distinctive attribute was that he often broke out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal, developed after he fell and broke his teeth before a show. This style influenced singers James Moody and Tim Buckley.
Thomas toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana in 1973 but was largely forgotten until a resurgence of interest in soul jazz and several of his tracks have been sampled in hip-hop and down-tempo records. Leon Thomas, jazz singer, often in the avant-garde genre, died of heart failure on May 8, 1999.
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