Soooooooo cool to see CELIA CRUZ celebrated on the ‘google doodle’ in honor of what would have been her 88th birthday! No doubt, the most original salsera EVER. Who else could pull off Celia’s style? Wigs of every color, great clothes, spectacular stage presence, and that distinctive, strong voice! Celia Cruz was completely authentic, diva in the best sense of the word, classic. Loved it that she held her own among performers, young and old, white and black, men and women.
I had the chance to see her perform many times and a couple of memories come to my mind:
1. In the 90’s at a Radio convention in Los Angeles: arriving by car to the hotel, as we are getting out of the car, we see Celia coming out of the hotel with husband Pedro…so there we go, todos starstruck, and she was the most gracious with us and I’ll always remember her saying, “bueno mija me voy porque me ‘ta e’perando en el cho en Paul Rodrigue”! (I have to go because they are waiting for me at Paul Rodriguez’ show) She was too cute!
2. A few years ago backstage at the Cow Palace San Francisco: I’m with sis LG and another friend and we are standing a little behind the stairs that we know Celia will climb to get onto stage. A few minutes later, here comes Celia in this fabulous green outfit (you know I would notice this), everyone is trying to get her attention…in her rush to the stage, Celia is shaking hands, etc,, and to Christy, she says, ‘ay gracias mija por venir’; and to my friend Celia says, ‘ gracias, señora por venir’. I remember my friend was like, “why is she calling me señora, I’m not old!” LOL
3. Backstage at The Gift Center, San Francisco: Again, I’m with sis LG and this time we are standing on one of the Gift Center levels backstage. We watch as Celia gets onto the stage with Pedro. Celia didn’t travel with a band, so she would perform with a local salsa band. So Celia is front and center; Pedro is in the background directing the band.
We come from a musical familia, so when Celia sounded kind of off-key, both Christy and I look at each other, then look to the stage. The band was NOT workin’ it and, from our vantage point, we could see Pedro furiously trying to get this band back in time and Celia looking back at Pedro totally frustrated and, dare I say it, completely pissed off. All I had to do was look at LG, a musician, a percussionist no less, and the shaking of her head as she watched this was priceless. But when the band messed up on “Bamboleo”, Christy’s like, “HOW could a band NOT be prepared to play THIS song?” I kind of felt bad for the band for a minute, and then I thought, LG’s right: the band needs to be on it’s ‘A’ game to play with the Queen of Salsa.
Below are a few of the notable tributes that I saw online today…Feliz Cumpleaños Celia!
FROM FANIA RECORDS FB PAGE: Majestuosa e inigualable la Reina de la Salsa #CeliaCruz! Hoy Celebramos 88 Años de aquel dia en el que la Guarachera nacio y con ella un nuevo significado a la palabara “AZUCAR”
FROM CHRISTINA TORRES AKA LG’S FB PAGE: Happy birthday to the late great Celia Cruz – Reina de la Salsa!!! She was a huge influence for me – so glad I had an opportunity to meet her. Gone but not forgotten.#celiacruz #reinadelasalsa #happybirthday
“Quimbara” Celia Cruz & Patti Labelle AWESOME rendition!
“Guantamera” Sound Check Celia & Fania All Stars in Africa — POWERFUL even in rehearsal
Celia Cruz & Oscar de Leon – one word: Badass! They complement each other perfectly!
La Vida Es Un Carnaval … Instant Classic!