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Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz (born 1924), is a Cuban Salsa music singer. Cruz was born in the Santo Suarez neighborhood, a poor area of Havana. When she was little, she earned her first pair of shoes by singing to a couple of tourists.

As a teenager, her aunt would take her and her cousin to cabarets to sing. Cruz that way started to learn what the show business was like. Her father, however, encouraged her to keep attending school, in hopes that she would become a teacher. But soon, her artistic dreams were further supported by her own teacher, who told her that Cruz could make in one day what most teachers make in one year.

Cruz began singing on talent contests, often winning cakes and also opportunities to participate on more contests. In 1950, her life changed when the leading singer of a famous Cuban band named La Sonora Matanzera returned to her country of Puerto Rico, and Cruz was called to fill in. Hired permanently by the orchestra, she wasn't well accepted by the public at first. However, the orchestra stood by their decision of hiring her, and soon Cruz became famous all over Cuba. She travelled all over Latin America with them, and in the 15 years she was a member of the band, they also became known as Cafe Con Leche (Coffee With Milk).

In 1960, Cruz moved to the United States and in 1961, she and her orchestra began performing at a locale named the Hollywood Palladium. Then, she and her orchestra's top trumpet man, Pedro Knight[?], began falling in love, and they got married in 1962. Cruz left the orchestra in 1965 and Knight went along with her, going into the background as her solo career started to take off. He also became her manager.

In 1966, Cruz and Tito Puente began an association that would make them produce eight albums for Tico Records. The albums did not have the success that was expected, however, and later, she joined the Vaya Records label, and there, she joined accomplished pianist Larry Harlow[?]. Soon, Cruz was headlining a concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.

In 1974, her album with Johnny Pacheco[?], Celia y Johnny, went gold, and soon she found herself in a group named the Fania All Stars, which was an ensemble of Salsa superstars from every orchestra signed by the Fania label (owner of Vaya Records). With the Fania All Stars, Celia had the opportunity of visiting England, France, Zaire and all of Latin America. In the late 1970s, she participated in an Eastern Airlines commercial in Puerto Rico, singing the catchy phrase Esto Si Es Volar!!! (This really is Flying!!!).

During the 1980s, Cruz kept touring Latin America very frequently and doing multiple concert and television shows wherever she went, singing both with younger stars and with stars of her own era. She began a crossover of sorts when she participated in the 1988 Hollywood production of Salsa, alongside Draco Cornelio Rosa.

In 1992, she participated, along with Andy Garcia[?] and Antonio Banderas in The Mambo Kings[?], and, during the 1990s also, she became friends with popular show host, magazine editor and actress Cristina Saralegui. She also made anniversary albums with La Sonora Matanzera during that decade.

In 2001, she made a new album, and Johnny Pacheco was one of the directors of the album.

She began 2003 by having a successful surgery to correct knee problems that she had for a few years.

Cruz has made 22 Gold albums, and she has earned over 100 awards internationally. She also performed once at the Grammys.

At the age of 78, she still plans on touring for many years to come. She has said she will be on tour until she dies. She is currently a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey.

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