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.
Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing is a pop song that became a jazz standard with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. The song was publicized first as the theme in the 1955 movie of the same name, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The music was commissioned for the movie and initially featured as background music. Lyrics were subsequently added to make it eligible for the Best Original Song category of the Academy Awards. From 1967 to 1973, it was used as the theme song to the television soap opera, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, based on the movie.
The Story: Set in 1949–50 Hong Kong it tells the story of a married, but separated, American correspondent Mark Elliot (played by William Holden), who falls in love with a Eurasian doctor Han Suyin originally from China (played by Jennifer Jones). Though they find temporary happiness, she encounters prejudice from her family and ostracized from Hong Kong society. After losing her position at the hospital, Suyin and her adopted daughter go to live with a friend while Mark is on an assignment during the Korean War. They write to each other constantly.
Vaughn Wilton Monroe was born on October 7, 1911 in Akron, Ohio and didn’t study music until attending the New England Conservatory in 1935 and then only one semester of voice. By 1940 he formed his first orchestra becoming lead vocalist and recording for the Bluebird label. That same year he built The Meadows, a restaurant/nightclub outside Boston and hosted the Camel Caravan radio program on location in 1946.
Monroe recorded extensively for RCA Victor into the 1950s and his signature tune was “Racing with the Moon” among his many other hits such as In The Still Of The Night, There I’ve Said It Again, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow; and Riders In The Sky are just a few. A composer, he also wrote a number of songs.
His interest turned to acting and as the movies also beckoned he pursued but with little vigor. He co-authored The Adventures of Mr. Putt Putt, a children’s book about airplanes and flying, published in 1949.
He hosted The Vaughn Monroe Show on CBS television in the Fifties, and appeared on Bonanza, the Mike Douglas Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Jackie Gleason Show and American Bandstand. A major stockholder in RCA, Monroe appeared in print ads and television commercials for the company’s TV and audio products.
Vaughan Monroe, baritone singer, trumpeter, bandleader actor and composer died on May 21, 1973 shortly after having stomach surgery. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording and radio.