Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz had risen to become one of the most recognized and influential Latin entertainers of her time when it came to music. Many years after her death, the winner of the National Medal of Arts is still a very important personality. Here you will find everything you want to know about her.
Celia Cruz Biography
The singer was born Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso on 25 October 1925 in Havana, Cuba. She was raised by her parents, Simón Cruz and Catalina Alfonso, as one of 4 biological siblings and many other cousins and extended family members.
For her education, the girl, who was to influence many people with her singing, went to the National Conservatory of Music in Havana. Before that, she attended a teacher school in the hope that she would end up as a literature teacher at the end of her education. However, she found her way out after winning a singing competition, and she was advised by people like her professor and, long before that, her aunt, to pursue music as a career.
Celia Cruz, also known as La Guarachera de Cuba, began her official music career in the 1940s with some early recordings she made, but it was not until the 1950s that she really received the attention she deserved. This happened after she joined La Sonora Matancera as lead singer.
By the early 1960s, she was already in the United States, where she settled in New York. She would continue singing and become famous as Queen of Salsa.
She had many songs and albums like Incomparable Celia (1958), Azucar Negra (1993), Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night of Salsa (1999), and many others. Her last work before her death was 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.
In addition to music, the Salsa queen also received several roles in a number of films such as Salón México (1950), Amorcito Corazon (1960), Fires Within (1991), and The Perez Family (1995), including documentaries.
Throughout her musical career, which has been successful in almost every field, she has won numerous prizes, including six Grammys, the last two for Best Salsa Album (2004) for her Regalo del Alma, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. In 1994 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by American President Bill Clinton. It is worth mentioning that she was granted American citizenship in 1961, although she was not an American citizen from birth.
Her Family, Husband, and Sister
As already mentioned, the singer grew up in a very large family with her parents, her immediate and extended family members. Among 14 other children, she was one of the oldest, and as such she naturally became very responsible very early in her life. Her immediate siblings were Dolores Ramos, Gladys Bécquer, and Bárbaro Jiménez.
After her death, her sister Gladys Bécquer sued her husband and others for fraud, claiming that she had been denied participation in insurance money left to her by her deceased older sister.
Speaking of her husband, Celia was married to Pedro Knight Caraballo in 1962. The two were to remain together until her death in 2003. Pedro Knight, who was also a musician, was both her husband and her manager. Although they would spend the next 41 years together, the couple would not have children together.
He died in 2007 after suffering from diabetes. Before he died 4 years after his wife, he suffered from stroke and dementia.
Celia Cruz Life, Death, and Funeral
The Queen of Salsa, popular for her unique, glittering dress style, bowed before death in 2003 after complications following brain cancer surgery. In December 2002 she underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor, after which she would return to her music.
However, on July 16, 2003, she was unable to survive a complication after the operation, and this was what led to her death after a great life.
Her funeral was attended by over 200,000 people, who paid their last respects after many vigils in different parts of the world, including the United States, Colombia, and Cuba. She was buried in a mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York, where Pedro Knight was to visit her less than 5 years later.