Los Boleros de Celia Cruz y Benny Moré

Celia Cruz in Cuba, ca. 1950’s. (Photo by Narcy Studios, Cuba, courtesy of Omer Pardillo-Cid.)

I don’t remember the first time I ever heard Celia Cruz, however my grandmother had a vinyl record of hers. I remember getting a CD in the early 1990s called “Boleros” and to this day it is one of my most loved and played CDs. Celia Cruz sang these songs that were soothing lullabies to my young troubled soul.

Boleros originated in Cuba and descended from the trova. It traveled to the rest of Latin America, where composers put their own style on this beloved musical form. The bolero transports me to another place and time and reminds me of an era I never knew, but that of my grandparents. This music also reminds me so much of my late father, who use to embarrass me as a teenager by singing boleros to me at the local Denny’s. How I wish I savored those moments so much more than I did. And asked him the names of all those amazing songs. Here is one of the greatest Cuban voices, Benny Moré with “Cómo Fué:

There is mythology around Celia Cruz’ early years. Legend has it that she would sing in her small rural village in Cuba as one of 14 kids and people would be drawn from other towns around because the sweet sound of her voice would carry on the wind. However, this is probably more likely. “At home, Celia’s chores included singing the younger children to sleep. Yet, like the pied piper, the adults would gather to listen, annoying the young songbird who would close the door on them confusing their admiration for surveillance. “

I’ve written about the nostalgia that Latin American ballads bring me in writing about the music of my family here and here.  Whether from South America to Mexico to Cuba to the U.S., the bolero is a very special type of song that should be known by all who love good music!

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