Many of the world’s most well known and talented musicians come from a Hispanic background. The music of these singers, guitarists, and pianists has won globally recognized awards and transcended cultural borders.
Several Hispanic musicians, such as Santana and Gloria Estefan, have overcome the odds to chase their dreams and here, we’ll share their inspirational stories. Keep reading to learn about five artists that are sure to leave you motivated, encouraged, and moved.
5 Inspiring Hispanic Musicians
Gloria Estefan – Pop Singer
Gloria Estefan was born in Havana, but her family fled from Cuba to Miami when she was a young girl. After serving in Vietnam, Gloria’s father became very ill. With her mother working and attending night classes, Gloria was left at home to care for her father and sister.
These responsibilities were a lot for a teenager, but Gloria turned to music as an escape. She would lock herself in her room and sing for hours. In 1975, Gloria became acquainted with a keyboardist who later became her husband. He led a band called “the Miami Latin Boys” and asked Gloria to be the lead vocalist as soon as he heard her sing.
The band’s name was later changed to “the Miami Sound Machine.” Their albums launched to the top of the charts, and Gloria was called a demure, Hispanic version of Madonna.
Her story doesn’t stop there, though. A car accident while on tour in 1990 left Gloria with broken vertebrae in her back. Never one to stay down, she made a miraculous recovery and was back on tour and making albums within the year. To this day Gloria Estefan is still making music, with many projects paying tribute to her native home of Cuba.
Santana – Guitarist
Santana has become a very familiar name, working with artists from every genre such as Michelle Branch and DJ Khalid, but it hasn’t always been that way. Growing up in Mexico, Santana’s father originally taught him how to play the violin, but he found that he liked the electric guitar much more.
As a teenager living in Tijuana, Santana started out performing at a variety of small venues. He later moved to San Francisco and spent his days working as a dishwasher in a diner and playing for change on the streets. B.B. King and Ray Charles were two of his biggest musical inspirations.
Santana never gave up on his dreams though, and eventually decided to pursue music full time. What started out as “The Santana Blues Band” later became known as “Santana” and gained a mass following, even performing at Woodstock.
The crowds loved Santana’s sound – a mix of blues, rock, and jazz. The band released multiple albums that went platinum and Santana has continued to win Grammy awards. He also recently published a memoir called “The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light” with the hope of inspiring others, and it became a national bestseller.
Ruben Gonzalez – Pianist
Ruben Gonzalez is proof that it’s never too late to pursue your passion. He released his debut album at the age of 78! Ruben originally studied medicine, but later in life he decided to pursue music.
He was known for his Latin jazz sound and was requested by many bands and ensembles. Ruben was best known for working with the Afro Cuban All Stars and the Buena Vista Social Club, specializing in Latin dance and traditional Cuban music.
His album with the Buena Vista Social Club won a Grammy in 1997, and that same year Ruben decided to release his first solo album – “Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez.” After releasing a second album in 2000, he died three years later knowing that he had done what he loved with his life. His music is still enjoyed by many.
Placido Domingo – Opera Singer
Both of Placido’s parents were singers for Spanish operettas in Madrid, which definitely contributed to his remarkable tenor voice and musical abilities. This didn’t mean that his success came easily, though.
After moving to Mexico at eight years old, Placido began appearing alongside his parents in performances. He originally played the piano and enrolled in school to become a conductor, but later decided to focus on singing. Placido had a few small television appearances and often played in piano bars to earn money.
At 18 years old, he began landing roles in various opera productions. Placido continued to work hard and eventually won a Grammy award for Best Opera Recording in 1971. Fourteen Grammys later, he is now in his seventies and lives by the motto, “If I rest I rust.”
Placido didn’t even let health problems such as cancer slow him down. He is still performing, recording, and running a prestigious voice competition called “Operalia” to discover and nurture new talent.
Selena – Tejano Singer
We can’t discuss Hispanic musicians without mentioning Selena. Known as the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena’s legacy lives on today despite her early death. (Tejano is a type of music that incorporates Mexican and other styles of music such as country.)
Selena began singing as a child. She was the lead in her family’s band alongside her brother and sister. The band originally performed at her parents’ restaurant, weddings, and fairs. As their music became increasingly popular, the band started to record albums and go on tour.
Eventually Selena was signed as a solo artist, and her Spanish-language albums received major accolades and awards. She began to work on her first English album, but before she could see its release, she was killed by one of her own fans at just 23 years old.
Selena’s untimely death was shocking to all who enjoyed her music. Her English album, “Dreaming of You,” was later released in 1996. The album sold more than a million copies and introduced many people to Tejano music. Selena’s story lives on, and she continues to inspire many with her impressive accomplishments in such a short career.
Each of these Hispanic musicians are inspiring in their own unique way. From different regions and different walks of life, they all overcame obstacles to introduce the world to their musical styles and abilities. Tell us about a musician you love in the comments below!
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