|Birth name||Pedro Knight Caraballo|
September 30, 1921|
|Died||February 3, 2007(aged 85)|
|Years active||c. 1944–2007|
|Labels||Fania, RMM Records & Video, Sony Discos|
|Associated acts||La Sonora Matancera, Celia Cruz|
Pedro Knight Caraballo was born September 30, 1921.
Career and relationship with Celia Cruz
Knight was a trained trumpeter, and a "powerfully expressive" musician, according to Sue Stewart of The Guardian. At age 23, he joined the Havana-based, Afro-Cuban conjunto band, La Sonora Matancera ("the sound of Matanzas", a port with a large black population), that produced "raunchy", highly rhythmic dance music rooted in traditional, Africa-based styles of son and guaracha, as revived decades later by the Buena Vista Social Club. The key to the band's sound relied on trumpets, percussion, Cuban guitar, double bass, voices, and piano. At the time, Havana was emerging as one of the world's most popular musical nightspots. La Sonora operated under a veiled apartheid system which kept many black musicians out of the affluent clubs that catered to American tourists. By the 1950s the band's sophisticated arrangements and live radio performances had become part of the golden age of Cuban music, having appeared alongside American singers such as Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan.
In 1950, the band's leader, Rogelio Martínez, invited Celia Cruz, who had gained popularity for her radio performances and for breaking the color barrier with the sexy song and dance act Las Mulatas de Fuego at Cuba's mafia-run casino-club, the Tropicana, to join the band. Over the course of six or seven years, she and Knight gradually became good friends, though she resisted his romantic advances because she feared a relationship with Knight, whom she knew enjoyed casual relationships with women and had five children at that point, would not work out.
In July 1960, a year and a half after Fidel Castro came to power, La Sonora Matancera went to Mexico City to accept a two-year touring contract, but Martínez announced during a radio interview that he had no intention of returning to Cuba, a stance in which the rest of the band joined him. After 18 months, the band accepted a long-term contract at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, which entitled them to American residencies. By then, Cruz fell in love with Knight, and the couple moved to New York, where they married on July 14, 1962, after Knight abandoned his own music to become Cruz's manager, and the couple were inseparable. Commenting on their relationship, Cruz said, "Pedro is my 50%. I am the one that sings, but he takes care of everything else."
In 1963, after pressure from New York's salsa label, Fania, Knight agreed for Cruz to produce the album Celia y Johnny with musician/producer Johnny Pacheco, which began a lifelong friendship between the collaborators, and continued success for Cruz, including tours of six continents for the band in the 1970s and 1980s. By the mid-1990s, Cruz was an international star, and incorporated Knight into her performances, clasping him to her and referring to him as Mi cabecita de algodon (my little cottonhead) because of his halo of now-white hair, and white mutton-chops. At home in Queens, New York, and later in Fort Lee, New Jersey, however, Cruz said she was a conventional Latino wife, performing errands such as cooking for him.
Later life and death
After Cruz died on July 16, 2003 from brain cancer, Knight had her buried in a granite mausoleum that he had built in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx earlier in 2003. Knight chose the plot on which it stands, which is near the gravestones of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, because it was accessible to fans, and had four windows built into it so that fans could see inside when paying their respects. Knight was known to share his time there with visiting fans.
Following Cruz's death, Knight sold their house and moved to California to be near to their surrogate son, Luis Falcon. Though he continued to promote Cruz's work, including working with various organizations she had supported during her lifetime, and accepting several awards bestowed upon his wife in 2004, her death severely affected his health. On July 7, 2004, he fainted during a cancer fundraiser in Miami, requiring hospitalization.
In early 2005, he attended the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Cruz at Washington's Smithsonian Museum. He worked on a biography and CD releases, but complications from years of diabetes began to take their toll on Knight, beginning with a mild stroke and then another more serious seizure in February 2006, the effects of which were exacerbated by family feuding over Cruz's fortune, though the lawsuits would be withdrawn due to Knight's dementia.
Knight died on February 3, 2007 at age 85 of diabetes and other ailments. He is survived by his first wife, their daughters, Ernestina, and his other four children Emili, Gladys, Pedro and Roberto, who remained in Cuba. He is buried with Cruz in the mausoleum he built for them in 2003.
- Steward, Sue (February 1, 2007). " Pedro Knight". The Guardian.
- Brady, Emily (February 25, 2007). "Amid the Gravestones, a Final Love Song". The New York Times.
- Ellen Pearlman (April 1, 2008). "Azucar! Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz at the New World Theater". The Brooklyn Rail.
- Townsend Rosa; Vicent, Manuel (July 18, 2003). "La muerte de Celia Cruz consterna al exilio cubano y a los artistas de la isla". EDICIONES EL PAÍS, S.L. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "¡Azúcar en el cielo!". El Diario de Hoy. July 17, 2003.
- "Pedro Knight". AllMusic. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
- Konrad, Rachel (5 February 2007). "Pedro Knight, 85, managed wife's career". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 October 2013. "Mr. Knight's physical and mental health declined after [Celia Cruz's] death. He fainted and required hospitalization after a July 2004 cancer fundraiser in Miami in Cruz's honor, and doctors described it as a combination of diabetes-induced low blood pressure and emotional breakdown."