Celia Cruz to Become First Afro-Latina Depicted on U.S. Quarter

The late Celia Cruz is still making money moves…

The face of the legendary Cuban singer will be depicted on a U.S. quarter, according to the United States Mint.

Celia CruzWidely known as the Queen of Salsa, Cruz was chosen along with four other exemplary women from history to be featured on the U.S. quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program in 2024. She’ll also make history as the first Afro-Latina to appear on the coin.

Cruz, who is considered one of the most influential Latin singers of all time and a cultural icon, is remembered for her lively expression of “¡Azúcar!,” and for her highly influential body of work consisting of 37 albums.

The other honorees include Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first women of color to serve in the U.S. Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, women’s rights advocate and Civil War era surgeon; poet, activist, and lawyer Pauli Murray; and Native American writer, composer, educator Zitkala-Ša.

The four-year program “celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women of the United States,” states the official website.

From joining La Sonora Matancera in the early ’50s up until her death in 2003 due to cancer, Cruz was unquestionably one of the most exuberant performers of Latin music. Her larger-than-life onstage presence coupled with her captivating charisma made her a legend in Latin America and beyond.

In the 1970s, she became a leading force in salsa music and joined Fania All Stars alongside Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colón, Tito Puente and other icons of the genre, a cultural phenomenon that took place in New York City and beyond.

She later explored other tropical genres such as merengue and reggaetón. Some of her most memorable hits in history include “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” and “Químbara” also featuring Johnny Pacheco.

She never lip-synched, and when asked to do it for TV performances, she refused. Cruz was also incredibly influential for many of today’s Latin stars. Her last 2003 album, Regalo del Alma, remained at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart for three weeks.

“I’ve never thought of retiring. I’m healthy, I’m rolling, I’m rolling. I remember Celia Cruz,” reggaetón pioneer Ivy Queen previously told Billboard, who has long idolized and emulated Cruz. “Her last Premios Lo Nuestro performance, she had cancer. She walked from her chair to the stage, she sang, and … she sang. That’s what I’m doing. F–k it. She did it, I’m gonna do it.”

Although Cruz died two decades ago, her legacy continues to appear in various corners of pop culture.

Last year, the estate of the salsa legend partnered with Archetype-IO to release her first NFT collection, which debuted in Art Basel 2022. In 2016, an 80-part series about her life became available for streaming on Netflix, titled Celia, by Telemundo.

For each year commencing in 2022 and running through 2025, the U.S. mint will issue five new reverse designs, and the obverse of the coin will still feature George Washington, but with a slightly different design from the previous quarter program.

This year celebrates Bessie Colemen, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idar and Maria Tallchief.

Fania Records Signs with Creative Artists Agency

Fania Records is experiencing a resurgence…

A half-century after its founding, the iconic Latin music label is capping off its 50th anniversary by signing with the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Fania Records

Founded in New York City in 1964 by Dominican Republic-born bandleader Johnny Pacheco and attorney Jerry Masucci, Fania Records went on to represent artists including Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Ismael Miranda, Ruben Blades, Cheo Feliciano and Roberto Roena. That impressive roster help cement the label’s status as the definitive home for genres like Latin big band, Afro-Cuban jazz, boogaloo, salsa and Latin R&B.

Masucci became Fania’s sole owner in 1967 (Pacheco stayed on as artistic director), and when he died in 1997, the label, which had fallen dormant for decades, became entangled in probate court.

Miami-based Emusica Entertainment Group purchased Fania’s assets from Masucci’s estate for a reported $9 million to $12 million in 2005 (ownership was later transferred to Codigo Group). The new management got to work sorting through its newly acquired catalog (it eventually unearthed almost 3,000 albums, 3,000 compositions and approximately 10,000 master tracks) and remastering and reissuing them for a new generation of listeners.

The new Fania has been adroit at adapting to changing times. In 2013, the label resumed profitability with approximately a quarter-million albums sold, most of them via digital download. In April, the label partnered with Spotify to launch a dedicated Latin-music app, a first for the genre. The app makes Fania’s entire digital catalog available for streaming, along with visually rich artist pages and a timeline of the label’s 50-year history.

This year, Fania also issued digital compilation albums and DJ remixes and partnered with Central Park’s SummerStage program for a concert series that married its classic tunes with “new school artists,” including DJ Turmix, Canyon Cody, Timothy Brownie and Whiskey Barons.

“Fania has evolved into a robust entertainment brand,” Codigo CMO Michael Rucker said in a statement. “CAA, with its breadth and depth of expertise in harnessing the power of pop culture, will guide us as we move forward into new creative and business territory and introduce us to a broader fan base.”

Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel” Added to the National Recording Registry

One of Linda Ronstadt’s most acclaimed recordings will live on in the archives of American history…

The 67-year-old Mexican American singer’s Grammy-winning fifth solo album Heart Like a Wheel has been inducted into the Library of CongressNational Recording Registry.

Linda Ronstadt Heart Like a Wheel

The album, released in 1974, is considered to be Ronstadt’s masterpiece recording and a pioneering blueprint of country rock.

In the 1970s, a decade that saw the rise of singer-songwriters, Ronstadt – who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month – was a bit of an anomaly. Primarily an interpreter, she was blessed with excellent taste in song selection and the talent to put her own stamp on each of her covers.

Heart Like a Wheel continued her tradition of eclecticism and featured covers of songs by Hank Williams, Paul Anka and Little Feat’s Lowell GeorgeIt also shows a keen ear for new material, like the achingly beautiful title track by Anna McGarrigle.

What made this album different from Ronstadt’s previous efforts was the additions of producer Peter Asher, who had been crucial to the career of James Taylor, and Andrew Gold, who arranged the music and played several instruments on the album sessions.

Ronstadt told the Library of Congress that the title track on the album “became an iconic song for me. That was the first chance I got to record a little bit more complex, emotionally, pieces instead of just trying to sing rock ’n’ roll. I never thought of myself as a rock ’n’ roll singer. I sang rock ’n’ roll because I liked to eat.”

Heart Like a Wheel was the first of Ronstadt’s three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart, reaching the summit for the week ending February 15, 1975, alongside the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, “You’re No Good.”

But Ronstadt’s prized work isn’t the only Latin album among the latest batch of 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” recordings to be preserved this year.

Celia & Johnny, the album released in 1974 by the late Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco, is also being inducted into the National Recording Registry.

Cuba’s Cruz was a dominant artist in the Afro-Cuban scene of the 1950s, when she sang with the great Sonora Matancera band. She came to America in 1962 and did well initially, but by the early 1970s, her career entered a slump as Latin styles nurtured in the U.S. became dominant.

For this album, rather than re-create the large orchestras that Cruz usually fronted, Pacheco – a New York-based bandleader and co-founder of the Fania Records label — assembled a small group that included pianist Papo Lucca, tres player Charlie Martinez and several percussionists, including himself.

This proved to be the perfect setting for Cruz to reach a newer and younger audience while remaining true to her roots. And she responded with some of the most inspired singing of her career, especially in the album’s many improvised passages. The album’s opening rumba, “Quimbara,” was a huge dance-floor hit, and Cruz soon was acclaimed as the Queen of Salsa.

This year’s 25 selections raise the number of recordings in the registry to 400, a fraction of the Library’s vast recorded sound collection of more than 3.5 million items.

Every year, the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board, selects 25 recordings that are at least 10 years old; the best existing versions of each are housed in the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va.

“These recordings represent an important part of America’s culture and history,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. “As technology continually changes and formats become obsolete, we must ensure that our nation’s aural legacy is protected. The National Recording Registry is at the core of this effort.”

Nominations were gathered through online submissions from the public and the NRPB.

Daddy Yankee’s “Limbo” Recognized at the ASCAP Latin Music Awards

Daddy Yankee has plenty of reason to celebrate…

The 37-year-old Puerto Rican reggaeton singer-songwriter’s “Limbo” has been named Song of the Year at the ASCAP Latin Music Awards.

Daddy Yankee

The track, released as a Spanish-language song and bilingual track, peaked at number one on Billboard’s Latin Songs and Latin Pop Songs charts.

“Limbo” was written specially for Zumba Fitness to highlight the dance fitness company’s presence in the Latin music industry.

Daddy Yankee said he wanted “Limbo to invite the imagination, ignite creativity, to step away from the norm and bring something completely different.”

But that wasn’t the only prize Daddy Yankee picked up…

He also received ASCAP’s Voice of Music award. Looking visibly emotional, Daddy Yankee accepted his award and addressed the crowd in general and his fellow musicians in particular.

“It’s such an honor to be here. For me everything began as a young guy in Santurce, Puerto Rico in the 90s. I still have that passion in my heart,” he said.

Meanwhile, legendary musicians Fania All-Stars, this year’s Heritage award recipients, shared the stage with today’s stars in what became a true once-in-a-lifetime musical moment.

“I want to thank these boys for being with me so many years,” said 78-year-old Fania founder and bandleader Johnny Pacheco when accepting the award. “To me, this is the best salsa orchestra in existence.”

Colombian Andres Castro shared the Songwriter of the Year award with Romeo Santos (who was on tour but sent a video greeting).

Held in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, the awards celebrate the most-performed songs, publishers and composers of 2013, with Sony/ATV winning publisher of the year and Mayimba Music winning Independent Publisher of the year.

Sergio George’s Salsa Giants to Perform in Latin America Beginning in October

Sergio George’s Salsa Giants will have you moviendo tus caderas this fall…

The 52-year-old Puerto Rican pianist and noted record producer has announced plans for his music group to perform a series of concerts later this year.

Sergio George's Salsa Giants

The Salsa Giants kick off concert will take place on October 4th in Lima, Peru.

Oscar D’León, Luis Enrique, Cheo Feliciano, Andy Montañez, Willy Chirino, Jose AlbertoEl Canario,” Tito Nieves, vocalist Nora from Orquesta de la Luz and Charlie Zaa make up the line up of the Salsa Giants concert at Lima’s San Marcos University.

The group’s tour will continue to Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Panama, with dates still to be announced.

Marc Anthony, a featured singer on the Salsa Giants debut album, which was recorded live at the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival, will not be part of the group’s kick off concert, as he’s scheduled to play the same night at San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Coliseo de Puerto Rico José M. Agrelot, commonly referred to as el Choliseo.

Meanwhile, salsa pioneers the Fania All Stars will stage a rare reunion concert at the Choliseo on Oct. 18.

That line up will include Fania founder Johnny Pacheco, Ismael Miranda, Feliciano, Colón, Larry Harlow, Bobby Valentín and others who were present at the birth of salsa in 1960s in New York City.

The concert will include tributes to departed All Star members Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Ray Baretto and others, with a special nod to Puerto Rican cuatro player Yomo Toro, who passed away last year.

The Fania musicians will continue on a world tour in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Fania Records, according to the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael Rucker. No other concert dates have been announced at this time.

Blades May Sign with Nacional Records

Rubén Blades is looking to become a Nacional star…

The 64-year-old Panamanian salsa singer/songwriter/actor, is looking to make Los Angeles-based Nacional Records the possible home for his new music, according to Billboard.com.

Rubén Blades

Blades, who spoke at this week’s Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in New York, said he was still unsigned with several music projects on the way.

The singer also confirmed he has two upcoming feature films in the works, including The Counselor with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and John Leguizamo.

“I’m not signed to a label,” said Blades during an interview at the conference, adding that he’s been working on several projects including the re-recording of his music from his time at Fania, the salsa label that was co-founded in the mid ’60s by Dominican-born composer Johnny Pacheco.

Tomas Cookman, who founded the LAMC, owns Nacional Records and confirmed that he had a weekend meeting with Blades about working with the singer.

“We had an amazing time together,” said Cookman. “The coming weeks will get us closer to potential next steps. I can’t wait.”

So it looks like Blades, who is also attached to the feature Hands of Stone with Robert De Niro, could have a bright future at Nacional.

“We’re going to look forward [to meeting with Blades in the upcoming weeks],” Cookman said. “He’s so beloved. It’s an exciting time for Nacional Records. We have plans to expand in 2014.”