Iglesias, Cugat, Fania: who paved the way for Rosalía and Bad Bunny?

The current Latin musical invasion in the Anglo-Saxon market would not be understandable without recognizing some of the names that fertilized the ground decades ago, facilitating the recent arrival of today’s stars.

Many paved the way at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present. Among them we can find Ricky Martin and his dancing spanglish to the rhythm of “Livin’ la vida Loca”, Juanes with “La camisa negra” and Maná, in collusion with Santana, and his massive hit “Corazón espinado”, without forgetting Enrique Iglesias.

Iglesias is the Latin artist with the greatest impact in the Anglo-Saxon market: he is the one who has the most number one singles on the Latin hit list in the United States and in 2020 Billboard named him the “Best Hispanic Artist in History”. With family permission, of course.

From Cugat to Fania

But let’s go further back in time. It is inevitable not to go back to those decades in which the true musical pioneers in the Cervantine language made their solitary, difficult and talented forays into the Anglo-Saxon market, far from a common, homogeneous and perfectly planned strategy.

Xavier Cugat and his orchestra in the film Two Girls and a Sailor.
Wikimedia Commons

In this context, it would be inexcusable not to highlight the figure of the Spaniard Xavier Cugat, one of the precursors of Latin rhythms. Cugat was a performer and director of his orchestra, and participated in numerous golden Hollywood films playing himself.

After four marriages, his last wife was Charo Baeza. Baeza built her own image and career in the US as a guitarist (a former student of Andrés Segovia), actress and singer. She began to collaborate with Cugat’s own orchestra, thus forging a character as a sexy Latina woman and popularizing her battle cry: “cuchi-cuchi”. She became a true figure in the American entertainment world and appeared in numerous television shows such as Holidays at Sea, Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, The Sonny & Cher Show, rubbing shoulders with illustrious figures such as Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Baeza even had his own show in Las Vegas.

If anyone has doubts about its relevance, it is worth pointing out that it is represented in an episode of The Simpson, which clearly validates the notoriety of any character. It seems understandable that The New York Times He had no choice but to thank heaven for Charo.

Stills of Charo Baeza characterized within the world of The Simpsons.
Appearance of Charo Baeza in The Simpson.
Twitter/For My Region Culture

Cugat’s triumph launched the careers of other Latino bandleaders in the US market. Among those names stands out the legendary percussionist nuyorican (New Yorker of Puerto Rican origins) Tito Puente, and the Cuban-Mexican Dámaso Pérez Prado, known as “the king of mambo.”

As a consequence of the triumph of Latin music and the synergies generated between different musicians and genres, salsa was born. The greatest example of the success it had is exemplified in the creation of the Fania Records record label, founded in New York by the American producer, promoter and businessman Jerry Masucci and the Dominican musician Johnny Pacheco in 1964, dedicated to the promotion of this type of music. .

For this, among other things, they created the great Fania All-Stars orchestra, which brought together the best artists of the moment. Legends of the genre such as Ray Barretto, Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades and… the “queen of salsa”, the great Celia Cruz, landed there.

An image of one of the Fania All Stars concerts, with Óscar D’Leon, Milly Quezada, El Canario and others.

Latin American proper names

The Mexican-American Ritche Valens, with his version of the traditional Mexican song “La Bamba”, made possible his minute of glory by rock ‘n’ roll in Spanish in 1959.

This triumph was endorsed three decades later by the version that Los Lobos made of the song on the soundtrack of the film of the same name. This paid tribute to the figure of Valens, who died prematurely along with Buddy Holly and Big Bopper – when they were on a joint tour – in a plane accident “the day the music died”, as Don McLean sang.

Among other figures who trodden the top “from within the United States” we find the Cuban-American Gloria Estefan, the first Hispanic to enter the US Songwriters Hall of Fame, thanks to her million-dollar sales obtained since mid- the 80s.

Some touches of Spain

Several Spanish artists have even had one hit wonders, that is, hits with only one song, on US territory. We can mention Los Bravos, with “Black Is Black”, Miguel Ríos, who conquered international markets with his “Himno a la Alegría”, a successful adaptation of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, or Mocedades, “the Spanish Mamas and The Papas ”, with “Eres tú”, among many others.

A separate case is that of Los del Río. And if not, tell the Democratic Party team during the 1996 US election campaign, including Hillary Clinton, who danced to the “Macarena” remix. The theme, an unexpected and absolutely international success, has become a classic of popular music. It spent fourteen weeks at number one on the Billboard ranking, it had the second best permanence record in history, it was one of the seven songs sung in a language other than English that led the chart, total success in thirty countries…

If we talk about Raphael, we are dealing with one of the most timeless legends of Spanish music, a multi-selling artist. He is still active celebrating his (more than) 60-year career.

July thing

And we cannot end this brief historical tour without glossing the figure of the most international artist in Spanish speaking: Julio Iglesias.

Like Rosalía today, she was seen by late nights large audience, such as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, hired the main representation and press agencies in the country, exploited his image as a Latin lover, and made unlikely recording collaborations with artists such as the singer of country Willie Nelson or Diana Ross.

Musical fusion between Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.

His contract in 1978 with CBS International, with the singer newly installed in Miami, especially contributed to this enormous success. The following releases from him, like At 33 years old (1978) or Emotions (1979), were great successes in many countries, followed by the tremendous impact of Hey! (1980). The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Latin Pop Album category, becoming one of the absolute highlights of her career. The sales of Hey! are estimated at about 20 million copies. She managed to repeat a Grammy Award nomination in the same category two years later with moments (1982).

In order to understand the “homeric” dimension of Julio Iglesias, we underline the fact that the CBS record company, in addition to offering him a millionaire contract (13.5 million euros in exchange and 10% of sales), made a huge investment promotional (two million dollars in 1983) for his album In Concertof which it shipped two million copies.

Those records were bettered the following year with four million copies sold in the US and another four in the rest of the world with 1100 Bel Air Place.. At the peak of his career, in 1984, he signed a million-dollar sponsorship with Coca Cola (which exceeded that signed at that time between Pepsi and Michael Jackson).

All this (and more, much more) make him unequivocally the most successful Latino artist of all time. 80 albums, more than 300 million copies sold, performances in fourteen languages ​​and concerts in 600 cities around the world are their endorsement.

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