Archive for the Salsa Icons Category

Ruben Blades: Vintage flier 60’s. LOS SALVAJES DEL RITMO

Posted in Listen Recovery, Salsa Icons, vintage posters/fliers/memorabilia on April 29, 2009 by Listen Recovery

ruben blades 1st band

Ruben Blades: vintage footage.

Posted in Listen Recovery, Salsa Icons, video archives on April 29, 2009 by Listen Recovery

Ruben Blades: Part I, 1970-1980 / Bio (wikipedia). photos by www.rubenblades.com

Posted in Listen Recovery, photography, Salsa Icons, video archives on April 29, 2009 by Listen Recovery

Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna (born July 16, 1948) is a Panamanian salsa singer, songwriter, lawyer, actor, Latin jazz musician, and politician, performing musically most often in the Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz genres. As songwriter, Blades brought the lyrical sophistication of Central American nueva canción and Cuban nueva trova as well as experimental tempos and political inspired Nuyorican salsa to his music, creating thinking persons’ (salsa) dance music.

Blades has composed dozens of musical hits, the most famous of which is “Pedro Navaja,” a song about a neighborhood thug who appears to die during a robbery (his song “Sorpresas” continues the story), inspired by “Mack the Knife.” He also composed and sings what many Panamanians consider their second national anthem. The song is titled “Patria” (Motherland). He is an icon in Panama and is much admired throughout Latin America, and managed to attract 18% of the vote in his failed attempt to win the Panamanian presidency in 1994. In September 2004, he was appointed minister of tourism by Panamanian president Martín Torrijos. He holds law degrees from the University of Panama and Harvard Law School.

Blades was born in Panama City, Panama, the son of Anoland Diaz (Diaz was his mother’s artistic surname, not her real name; Her maiden name was Bellido de Luna), a Cuban pianist, singer, and actress, and Ruben Dario Blades, Sr., a gifted athlete, percussionist and later a graduate of the Bureau Of Narcotics in Washington, D.C. His mother’s great-uncle Juan Bellido de Luna was active in the Cuban revolutionary movement against Spain and was later a writer and publisher in New York. Blades’s paternal grandfather, Reuben Blades, was an English-speaking native of St. Lucia who came to Panama as an accountant. His family is not quite sure how the Blades family ended up in St. Lucia, but when his grandfather relocated to Panama, he lived in the Panamanian province of Bocas de Toro. Ruben Blades thought until recently that his grandfather had come to Panama to work on the Panama Canal, as he tells in the song “West Indian Man” on the album Amor y Control (“That’s where the Blades comes from”) (1992). He explains the story of his family surname in his web show Show De Ruben Blades (SDRB).

In Blades’ early days, he was a singer in Los Salvajes del Ritmo with fellow university students, and also a songwriter and guest singer with a professional Latin music conjunto Bush y sus Magníficos. His strongest influence of the day was the Joe Cuba sextet and Cheo Feliciano, whose singing style he copied to the point of imitating his voice tone and vocal range.

1970s – 1980s

Blades earned degrees in political science and law at Panama’s Universidad Nacional and performed legal work at the Bank of Panama as a law student. Upon his graduation in 1974, Blades moved to the United States, staying temporarily with his exiled parents in Miami before moving to New York City.

Blades began his formal musical career in New York writing songs while working in the mailroom at Fania Records, perceived as a talented songwriter who still had to develop a singing style of his own. The proverbial mailroom job was a good opportunity to stay close to the company until the right opportunity came along. Soon Blades was working with salseros Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow. Shortly thereafter, Blades started collaborating with trombonist and band leader Willie Colón, and they recorded several albums together and participated in albums by plena singer Mon Rivera and the Fania All Stars.

Blades’ first notable hit was a song on the 1977 album Metiendo Mano that he had composed in 1968: “Pablo Pueblo,” a meditation about a working-class father who returns to his home after a long day at work. The song later became his unofficial campaign song when he ran for president of Panama. The Colón and Blades recording on the same album of Tite Curet Alonso’s composition, “Plantación Adentro,” which dealt with the brutal treatment of Indian natives in Latin America’s colonial times, was an enormous hit in various Caribbean countries. He wrote and performed several songs with the Fania All Stars and as a guest on other artists’ releases, including the hits “Paula C,” written about a girlfriend at the time; “Juan Pachanga,” about a party animal who buries his pain for a lost love in dance and drink; and “Sin Tu Cariño,” a love song, featuring a bomba break. The latter two songs feature piano solos by Papo Lucca.

In 1978 Blades wrote the song “El Cantante”; Colón convinced him to give the song to Colón’s former musical partner, Héctor Lavoe, to record, since Lavoe’s nickname was already “El Cantante de los Cantantes” (“the singer of singers”). Lavoe recorded it that same year, and it became both a big hit and Lavoe’s signature song; a 2007 biographical film of Lavoe took the same title.

The Colón and Blades album Siembra (1978) became the best-selling salsa record in history. It has sold over 25 million copies, and almost all of its songs were hits at one time or another in various Latin American countries.

Blades became dissatisfied with Fania and tried to terminate his contract, but was contractually obliged to record several more albums. Maestra Vida and its follow-up Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos are highlights. In 1984, Blades signed with Elektra and assembled a top-notch band (known variously as Seis Del Solar or Son Del Solar) and recorded a number of albums with them including the Grammy-winning albums Escenas and Antecedente. Fania continued to release recordings compiled from their archives for some years afterwards.

In 1982, Blades got his first acting role in The Last Fight, portraying a singer-turned-boxer vying for a championship against a fighter who was played by real-life world-champion boxer Salvador Sánchez. In 1985, Blades gained widespread recognition as co-writer and star of the independent film Crossover Dreams as a New York salsa singer willing to do anything to break into the mainstream. Blades also began his career in films as a composer of soundtracks. Also in 1985, he earned a master’s degree in international law from Harvard University School of Law. He was also the subject of Robert Mugge’s documentary The Return of Ruben Blades, which debuted at that year’s Denver Film Festival.

After winning his first Grammy for Escenas in 1986, he recorded the album Agua de Luna based on the short stories of Gabriel García Márquez in 1987. The next year he released the English-language collaboration Nothing But the Truth with rock artists Sting, Elvis Costello, and Lou Reed the same year as the more traditionally salsa Antecedente, another Grammy winner.

Releasing an English-language album was much criticized, but he answered his critics, “I do not believe in the notion that one is condemned to do something because he looks in a certain way or speaks a certain language. To me, music is a universal thing, and I have always been interested in the directions offered me by music in English, directions I could not find, concretely in terms of construction, with the Afro-Cuban rhythms I’d always worked with. I also wanted to leave testimony of the meeting of urban tropical music with rock ‘n roll”.

Los Salvajes del Ritmo: Conjunto Panameño

Los Salvajes del Ritmo: Conjunto Panameño

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