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|Born||Luz Esther Benítez
July 22, 1942
Bayamón, Puerto Rico
|Other names||La Voz Nacional de Puerto Rico|
Lucecita was a member of what is historically known in Puerto Rico as the New Wave, or Nueva Ola of popular music, created by Alfred D. Herger, alongside Lissette and Chucho Avellanet, among others. She was a participant of Telemundo channel 2's El Club del Clan (The Clan's Club) television show, and had a 15 minute show up at the Show de Las 12 (12 O' Clock Show). In 1964, she had her first major hit, with the song "Un Lugar Para Los Dos". This was a cover song of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You", but sung in Spanish by Lucecita.
Benítez's most important career step came in 1969, when she won the Festival de la Cancion Latina (Festival of the Latin Song) in Mexico. She participated with two songs, "Génesis" by G.V. Lloveras and "Energía de mis manos", by M. de Jesús. "Genesis" received the highest points (223) in the festival and Lucecita also won as best dressed performer. Pedro Rivera Toledo's arrangement of Genesis also won as the best arrangement, although the orchestra was conducted by Jose S. Marroquin. The festival was held at the Teatro Ferrocarrilero in Mexico. Lucecita became an instant hit in Mexico and throughout the Latino music world. She then became ill with asthma and needed to be cared for by then President Lyndon Johnson's personal physician. Lucecita's attire was designed by Puerto Rican dressmaker Martin, who used silk fabric imported from the East. Her most impressive thought the evening she won the festival was when several medical students from Puerto Rico studying in Mexico waved their country's flag after she was announced as winner. It was such that she had to restart the opening strains to "Genesis" as she became choked up with emotion. She was received in Puerto Rico's International Airport after the festival ended with such importance and joy that schools had to be closed that morning while her caravan rode through the streets of San Juan. Her most happy and ardent fans were the have-nots who congregated at the Luis Lloréns Torres housing projects who applauded Lucecita as her caravan drove by. This important event in her career led to her performing with Sammy Davis Jr. and to an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. RCA signed her immediately, and her career's star rose considerably, touring all over Latin America and in Spain. She also performed for many years at the Club Caribe at Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Lucecita still does world tours and performs live frequently. She has her own recording company, Grabaciones Lobo. In 1994, she participated in Banco Popular's dedicatory to Jose Feliciano. At the same time, she also performed at Carnegie Hall, where she recorded a live album to honor the memory of salsa singer Ismael Rivera. Recently, Puerto Rico's government celebrated her 1969 triumph of "Genesis" with a gala celebration. The town of Caguas dedicated a museum of memorabilia in her honor. Her old friend and fan Roberto Tirado, pictured in the above photo with Lucecita taken at the NYC ACE Awards in 2000, has contributed to this museum with many items personally owned by Lucecita which he saved during her time at the height of her fame. Recently, in 2007, Lucecita was involved in a traffic accident where no one was injured. This happened in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after she had left a dinner party. She was cleared of any wrongdoing. She travels frequently to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she has a huge fan following after her participation in a soap opera singing songs from her excellent album, Exitos Callejeros. Lucecita's biography, co-written by Dr. Angel Opio and Lucecita, will be out soon with many exciting revelations by Lucecita. Dr. Opio has interviewed fans, photographers, producers, etc., in order to make this book a best seller and an authentic review and historical perspective of Lucecita's musical career. Lucecita has so far said that the book will be released "when it will be released." One of Lucecita's major career obstacles has been her well-known personal temperament and displeasure with many of her fans.
Many people and fans have stated that artists such as Olga Guillot, Libertad Lamarque, etc. have been influences on Lucecita's musical career. However, Lucecita has credited her mother, Mrs. Luz Maria Rosado Benitez, as the major, if not sole, influence on her music. Lucecita has stated numerous times in the media such as the press, radio and television that she credits her mother for her musical interest and influence. Specifically, she states that since her father, Mr. Juan Benitez, was a merchant marine and was always away from home most of the time, her mother would sing throughout the house while she did her chores. Many of the songs were tangos and boleros. Lucecita picked up on this and also sang while she dusted, ironed for her brothers, etc. One day her mother heard her from the another room and was startled to hear that Lucecita's voice was almost like her own. This was brought on by her brother Miguel, who said to his mother that he wanted her to sing when he brought a certain girlfriend to the house. Mrs. Benitez told Miguel that it was not her singing, that it was Lucecita! From then on, Mrs. Benitez insisted that her older brother Enrique would take Lucecita to talent shows throughout San Juan. This was done mostly when Mr. Benitez was away on leave as he did not want his daughter to become involved in show business; he wanted her to become a cosmetologist or some other profession.
Lucecita's career was at her height during this time. Here, producer/host Ed Sullivan was in Puerto Rico on vacation and caught Lucecita's Caribe Hilton show and invited her to his CBS TV program, The Ed Sullivan Show, seen on Sundays at 8PM nationwide. Sullivan was so impressed by her unique voice that he made sure she closed his show that December 1970. She sang "Todas Las Mananas" ("Every Morning") accompanied by conga player Candido. Despite being accompanied by her manager Paquito Cordero, her personal assistants and make-up artist, previously mentioned New York fan club president Roberto Tirado, she was naturally extremely nervous at this nationwide exposure. Bandleader Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra's conductor, was also Sullivan's house band leader. Riddle made sure that Lucecita was at ease; there was only one dress rehearsal before the live show. Sullivan allowed Lucecita to do her act in jeans and t-shirt, much to the other performer's chagrin. Lucecita's closing act was the beginning of her international musical induction.
Personal evolution starting in the 1970's
Lucecita went in the early part of this decade into a period of introspection about herself and her role in Puerto Rican popular culture, and the images she was reflecting in that process. She started changing her appearance and the content of the lyrics of her songs, and in the process transformed her image into that of a rebellious and angry genius. A major portion of her image shift was her realization that much of her family ancestry was African, and she consciously decided to stop "whitening" her image in order to appeal to the mass market. Gone was her straightened hair, her light-skinned make-up and former appeasing to the masses.
Much of Puerto Rico's media establishment reacted negatively to her changes, and castigated her by writing terrible things about her when she let her natural "afro" hair style grow. As a result, she started treating the press with reserve and disdain. She felt it was now her turn to say what she felt in her heart. She recorded an album, with no title, just a drawing in color by a well known artist. The main song in the LP was "Soy de Una Raza Pura", ("I am from a Pure Race") written by Tony Croatto and David Ortiz. This song became a number one hit both in Puerto Rico and the USA. She started wearing long, flowing robes and attended philosophy classes at the University of Puerto Rico. She designed and promoted several concerts, "Traigo Un Pueblo En Mi Voz" and "En Las Manos Del Pueblo".
However, there was a reaction against Lucecita's new focus in her lyrics on the poor, the unaffected, and others she thought were underserved. She had consciously moved away from the type of music the mass market was more geared to: ballads of love and despair. Work was less forthcoming, and as a result, Lucecita began to hit hard times.. The same people who had compared her to France's Edith Piaf now turned their back on her. Lucecita was at a career dead end and she became depressed.
A major portion of the reaction against Lucecita's new style and image was political in nature, as she was seen at many events where independence for Puerto Rico was the focus or a major topic. She was labeled as a political partisan of Puerto Rican independence, and that sealed her career's supposed demise. However, Lucecita had never pledged to any political party per se; she explicitly stated that wanted her music to be heard by everyone. She became involved with much of the famous Puerto Rican poet Julia De Burgos' work and wanted to set it to music. She became a bohemian living in Old San Juan in an apartment that she was able to lease while she still had the means.
She traveled to New York and performed at Carnegie Hall in an attempt by producer/promoters Hal Kaye and Roberto Tirado to revive her musical career. Only half of the famous Carnegie Hall was sold even though Lucecita performed magnificently. She received a standing ovation when she sang "Carta A Un Artista", ("A Letter To An Artist") a number by Argentinian composer Alberto Cortez. Most of the songs in her "En Las Manos Del Pueblo" concert and recording were written by Mr. Cortez. In September 2008, Lucecita performed to a sold out concert at the Centro de Bellas Artes in Puerto Rico.
- Online Discography
- http://web.archive.org/web/20091027003501/http://geocities.com/westhollywood/7415[dead link]