Yo Ho, WeRCatz here!
Many artists of African descent touched the landscape of what music sounds like in the US. Little Richard, Otis Redding, Dione Warwick, Aretha Franklin, and so many others have made their mark in the US and forever changed what constitutes as US popular music.
However, some Afro-Latino artists have also made their mark in US popular music. For the sake of brevity and the fact that their impact is huge in their own right, we’ll focus on three artists that shaped popular music.
The first artist is Perez Prado. Born in Matanzas, Cuba, Prado has made his legacy as the “King of Mambo” and “La Cara de Foca” (Seal face); he is also known for his famous grunts while performing. Moving to Mexico to start his career, Perez Prado cemented his contributions to the US after arranger Sonny Burke vacationed in Mexico in 1950 and listened to Prado’s hit “Que Rico el Mambo.” He recorded some of his hits in the US as well as the world. Some of his famous hits include “Lupita,” “Mambo No. 5,” and “Mambo Politecnico.”
Celia Cruz is a huge name in Latin music. Known as “La Guarachera de Cuba,” Celia began her career in Cuba in the 50s performing as a vocalist for La Sonora Matancera. After the Cuban Revolution, Cruz established her career in Mexico and then permanently in the US. She continued performing well into her old age and hasn’t lost a beat until her death in 2003 at the age of 77. Some of her well-known hits include “La Vida es un Carnaval,” “La Negra Tiene tumbao,” “Bemba Colora,” and her classic “Quimbara.” She was even a musical guest on Sesame Street Azucar!
Johnny Laboriel didn’t have much of an impact in the US as a whole but he did leave his mark across the US border. By translating 60s hits like “Yakety Yak” and “Poison Ivy” into Spanish, Laboriel became a Mexican Rock star. He was also a movie star and actor that transcended racial issues in Mexico. Some of his hits include “La Hiedra Venenosa,” “Melodia de Amor,” “Siluetas” and “Cuando Florezcan Los Manzanos.” He was active until his death in 2013 at the age of 71.
Prado, Cruz, and Laboriel helped shape modern popular music in the US and the world. Reggaeton’s emergence in the US wouldn’t exist without Celia Cruz’s influence. Mambo wouldn’t endure in the US without Perez Prado. Johnny Laboriel showed that color is not an issue in Mexico and the Americas with Rock and Roll. We are still bumping to their melodies to this day.