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Ruben Blades

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Ruben Blades
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Singer, songwriter, jazz musician, lawyer, activist, and politician, Rubén Blades pioneered the crossover of Latin dance music into the Anglo-American popular mainstream. The Panamanian-born superstar brought lyrical sophistication, experimental tempos, and politically inspired Nuyorican poetry to the irresistibly rhythmic music, creating salsa that was as intelligent as it was danceable. Blades earned degrees in political science and law at the Universidad Nacional de Panama before moving to the U.S. in 1974 to begin his musical career. He started working in the New York City mailroom of legendary salsa label Fania Records, where his gift as a songwriter soon brought him to the attention of such superstars as Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, and trombonist/bandleader Willie Colón, with whom he began collaborating.
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1978 saw the release of Colón and Blades’ Siembra, which would go on to become the biggest-selling salsa album in history and bring Latin dance music to its widest audience to date. In 1984, Blades signed with Elektra and assembled his own crack band that he dubbed alternatively “Seis del Solar” and “Son del Solar.” Their label debut, entitled Buscando América, saw Blades expanding his musical horizons to incorporate experimental textures and sociopolitical lyrical content. The following year, Escenas – featuring guest appearances from Linda Ronstadt and Joe Jackson – was honored with a “Best Tropical Latin Performance” Grammy – Blades’ first. Nothing But The Truth, the first English-language album of Blades’ long career, arrived in 1988. The acclaimed recording featured contributions from three of Blades’ biggest fans in Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, and Sting. Blades’ final Elektra release was 1990’s powerfully funky Rubén Blades Y Son del Solar…Live! Blades has also pursued a remarkable range of other activities. He has acted in a number of films, including his breakthrough performance in 1985’s Crossover Dreams – which he co-wrote. In 1997, he made his Broadway debut, starring with Marc Anthony in Paul Simon and Derek Walcott’s The Capeman. Long active in Panamanian politics, Blades put his artistic career on hold in 2004 to serve a five-year appointment as Panama’s Minister of Tourism. Upon the completion of his service, he returned to music in a big way by reuniting Seis del Solar to embark on a major tour of the Americas in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their now-classic Elektra debut, Buscando América.
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