Frankie Ruiz

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Frankie Ruiz
Frankie Ruiz.jpg
Background information
Birth name José Antonio Torresola Ruiz
Born (1958-03-10)March 10, 1958
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
Died August 9, 1998(1998-08-09) (aged 40)
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Salsa
Years active 1971–1998
Labels Rodven Records
Associated acts Orquesta La Solución, Tommy Olivencia

José Antonio Torresola Ruiz [note 1] (March 10, 1958 – August 9, 1998), better known as Frankie Ruiz, was a Puerto Rican salsa singer. He was a major figure in the salsa romántica subgenre that was popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. During his youth, he developed a passion for percussion, later confessing that this would have been his second choice after singing.[1] While still in his 30s he became known as El Papá de la Salsa (The Father of Salsa).

Fan reaction to his work was diverse. Within the Latino community he was regarded as "one of the best salseros ever", and Puerto Ricans in the diaspora were particularly fond of it because it brought back memories of their homeland.[2] Among non-Latinos, some admitted that his music had been responsible for their interest in salsa as a genre and even the Spanish language.[2]

As salsa moved closer to pop music, and toned down the eroticism in its lyrics during the 1990s, Ruiz was challenged, along with other salsa romántica performers, but he managed to record a number of hits during his late career.[3] He suffered from years of drug and alcohol abuse. His personal shortcomings were exploited by the tabloid media but had little impact on his popularity.[3] In 1998, Ruiz died due to complications from liver disease.

Early life[edit]

Known to his relatives as El Canito, a reference to his fair skin and light hair, Ruiz was born in Paterson, New Jersey to Puerto Rican parents who had moved from Puerto Rico to the United States.[4] After his birth, his grandmother Concepción took responsibility for him as his mother was 15 years old.[5] He grew up in the country, and Union City, with brothers Viti and Junito, raised by his parents Frank Torresola and Hilda Ruiz.[6] He received his primary and secondary school education in Paterson, where his father served as education commissioner.

At the age of 5, Ruiz played percussion instruments at the Roberto Clemente Park in Trenton and at other city venues.[7] One of these performances earned him an award at a show held at the Majestic Theater in Paterson.[4] When he was around 7 years old, he began to exhibit the first signs of his future career, memorizing and singing songs with theatricality.[8] In his youth, Ruiz's father had been a musician and had witnessed several of his colleagues fall prey to drugs, alcohol, and other vices; he used this as a cautionary tale for his son.[2] Although he considered Ruiz's voice too rough to be a singer initially, he was impressed when his son responded that he would work on improving it.[4] His mother encouraged the artistic potential of her children and familiarized them with the music business by exposing them to talent shows and other performances.[9] At one of these events Ruiz met Tito Puente and was gifted a set of timbales.[10]

During this time, he developed a friendship with the Joe Salvador and his family and was often at their home. He came to know other family members such as Joe's sibling Rosemary, and their mother Rosario, who would later play important roles in his life.[11] Both families became further acquainted at softball game picnics, sponsored by Peter Salvador the family's patriarch, where Ruiz and his two brothers would perform. Ruiz never enrolled in singing classes but picked up techniques, and mastered them, allowing him to perform professionally, and to teach them to others.[1] Ruiz moved to Puerto Rico with his mother in 1965.[12]

Musical career[edit]

Beginnings as a vocalist[edit]

Ruiz and Joe Salvador joined a local music group named Orquesta Nueva led by Charlie López, (otherwise known as The Charlie López Orquesta), as vocalist and bass player, and started performing salsa at talent shows.[11] The Salvador family supported their first steps as musicians.[11] He recorded his first song "Salsa Buena" and later "Borinquen" with this band.[13] In 1974, Ruiz moved with his mother to Mayagüez, Puerto Rico after his parents divorced. There they went to Barrio Balboa to live with his grandmother, and other family members – Becky Cintrón and his uncles Edwin and Emilio.[9][13] By his early teens, his future lifestyle began manifesting itself when he started attending nightclubs.[14]

In Puerto Rico, Ruiz became a fan of a salsa band called La Solución, directed by Roberto Rivera, and learned all of their songs. He attended various concerts and shows. On one occasion, Ruiz's mother asked Rivera to give her son an opportunity to sing with the band, but to no avail. However, in 1977, Ruiz was present at one of their shows when the lead singer did not show up. Rivera felt that he had no other choice but to give Ruiz a try. He was hired by Rivera and dropped out of school to pursue this career full-time.[13] Ruiz re-recorded a new version of "Salsa Buena" with La Solución. He performed with the band for three years and recorded his first hit single "La Rueda" ("The Wheel"). However, this success was bittersweet as it was inspired by the passing of his mother.[4] Although just a vocalist initially, he was soon given a central role, and the band was renamed Frankie Ruiz y La Solución to emphasize this.[15] When he was 21 years old, Ruiz lost his mother in a car accident in Mayagüez; only his brother Viti survived.[10] This incident had serious consequences for Ruiz and led to the abuse of drugs and severe alcoholism.[10] His already unstable lifestyle was exacerbated when his girlfriend was murdered.[14] He fathered a daughter, Yaritza, but the two did not remain close during this period.[16]

Ruiz also performed with other bands such as La Dictadora and La Moderna Vibración.[15] In 1982, Ruiz joined Tommy Olivencia and his Primerisima Orquesta, replacing Gilberto Santa Rosa as vocalist.[13] He recorded singles such as "Fantasía de un capintero" and "Como lo hacen"; his style helped to attract a new generation of salsa followers.[15] Other songs he recorded with Olivencia's band included: "Lo Dudo", "Primero Fui Yo", Como Una Estrella", and "Que Se Mueran de Envidia", which also became hits.[15][17] Ruiz participated in the recording of three albums with Olivencia: Un triángulo de triunfo, Tommy Olivencia and Celebrando otro aniversario.[18]

Ruiz eventually settled in Florida, where he lived for years with Judith Ruiz, the mother of his son Frankie Ruiz, Jr. (born in 1984).[19] As a father Ruiz taught his son to play baseball and often expressed a desire to see him become a baseball player or a singer.[20] He tried to foster a love of music in his son by inviting him onstage while he performed, but he was too bashful to join him.[20] Despite this, Ruiz found a way to share his love of music by singing rap songs with his son, who was a fan of the genre during his youth.[20]

Soloist debut and chart success[edit]

In 1985, Ruiz decided to go solo and recorded his debut album, Solista pero no Solo, with TH-Rodven Records. The production included the major hits "Tu Con Él" and "La Cura". He traveled throughout Latin America, Europe, and the United States. The album was successful and became the number-one Billboard Tropical Album of 1985, ending the band El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico's dominance in that category.[4] The album reached the top spot on this list twice more, alternating with Hansel y Raúl.[4] The album also included other singles such as: "Esta cobardía", "Como le gustan a usted", "El camionero", "Cosas Nativas", and "Ahora me toca a mí".[18] Solista pero no Solo ended 1986 as the best-selling Tropical/Salsa album of the year in the United States.[22] Ruiz was one of several soloists, along with Eddie Santiago, Lalo Rodríguez, Tony Vega, Santa Rosa and Tito Nieves among others, who prompted a surge in the popularity of salsa romántica.[18] He was particularly renowned for emphasizing the eroticism in his lyrics, a style that earned him a large female following,[18] while still being popular with men. During this period, Tite Curet Alonso collaborated with him and they became friends.[18] At the request of Richie Viera, the composer wrote a song for Viti based on the life of the brothers.[23] The result was "Todo queda entre Familia", which Viti went on to popularize, featuring Ruiz as part of its lyrics.[23]

Willie Sotelo served as Ruiz's musical director, a role that he would fill for the next decade.[18] The success of this group led to a general resurgence of salsa which had been struggling before the expansion of merengue music in the tropical categories.[24] Among the most memorable events Ruiz remembered as a soloist was a concert held in a soccer stadium in Colombia, where he was awestruck by the number of people filling the stadium.[25] In 1986, Ruiz made his only appearance in a European bullring, performing before a sold-out crowd of 8,000, at the Plaza de Toros de Santa Cruz in Tenerife, Spain.[26]

In 1987, his second solo album, Voy Pa' Encima, was a success in Puerto Rico and the United States selling over 300,000 copies.[27] Led by singles "Desnúdate Mujer" and "Mujeres", the album earned Ruiz the Latin Artist of the Year Billboard Music Award.[13] "Desnúdate Mujer" peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart.[28] Like its predecessor, it would reach the top of the Billboard list three times, this time alternating with Eddie Santiago's Atrevido y Diferente. With this production, his work once again reached Europe, first arriving in the Canary Islands and the expanding throughout Spain.[27] A compilation album titled Historia Musical de Frankie Ruiz also reached the top of the Billboard list. His third album, En vivo... y a todo color, was released a year later and is generally regarded as the first time that the instability in his personal life was reflected in his music.[13] The album managed to sell over 200,000 copies despite Ruiz undergoing a difficult time in his life fully immersed in his vices.[15]

Hiatus and rehabilitation[edit]

In 1989, during a flight after one of his concerts, he was drunk and attacked a flight attendant. He was arrested and sentenced to three years at the federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida for the incident. While Ruiz was in jail, Judith and Frankie, Jr. would visit, but she shielded her son from his father's reality by calling the prison a "school".[20] She had taken charge of raising their son because his father's hectic schedule.[20] and he did not have any contact with his older sister or his uncle.[20] Shortly after being jailed in 1989, Ruiz' recording label Rodven records released a new album, Más Grande Que Nunca, which contained the hit "Deseandote". The album achieved platinum sales status.[29]

While in jail, Ruiz underwent a detoxification process and developed an interest in a healthy diet and bodybuilding.[24][30] He also began teaching percussion to some of the inmates.[24] His family survived with the money generated by the sales of his albums.[30] He was allowed to return to Puerto Rico to do some recording.[30] In March 1992, Ruiz's release process was begun and he returned to Puerto Rico in April; the final months of his sentence were spent in a treatment center in Trujillo Alto, while he began working with Vinny Urrutia on his next album.[24] However, in June he was returned to the prison in Tallahassee. Approaching his release, Ruiz wanted to project a different image and satisfy his fans, leading to the release of "Mi Libertad" (My Freedom). The album had 50,000 pre-sale orders.[31] Two songs from the album, the title track and "Bailando", peaked at number ten on the Hot Latin Songs chart.[32] "Bailando" was nominated in the category of Tropical Song of the Year at the 1993 Lo Nuestro Awards.[33] The album was certified platinum after selling over 100,000 copies, a recognition that Ruiz received from TH-Rodven.[34] He sales surpassed those of artists such as: Sergio Vargas, Santa Rosa, Xavier, Juan Luis Guerra, Jerry Rivera, and Rey Ruiz during this time.[34]

Return to the charts[edit]

Ruiz insisted that he was a changed man and the media noted that he was often seen accompanying his family during his free time.[30] In an interview with El Nuevo Día, he also expressed interest in helping others and offering conferences at Hogares CREA, a chain of drug addition treatment centers based in Puerto Rico.[30] His contract with TH-Rodven expired during his sentence, but it was extended due to pre-established obligations, which led to the schedule of two albums before he was released.[29] Urrutia completed the arrangements for a series of singles including "Hablame", "Amor a medias", "Soy culpable", "Obsesión", "Sueño dormido", "Tiene que saber que es ella", "Soledad", and "Nos sorprendio el amanecer", which would serve as the basis for Ruiz's next album, Puerto Rico Soy Tuyo which was released in 1993.[29]

He continued to tour around the world, in particular South America, but soon began to abuse drugs and alcohol once again. On February 14, 1994, Ruiz joined several members of the salsa romántica subgenre in Concierto del Amor, a concert held at the Madison Square Garden to commemorate St. Valentine's Day.[35] In August, Ruiz performed at the Latin Salsa Jam '94 held in his native New Jersey where he was joined by other popular salseros.[36] In December 1994, Ruiz released Mirandoté with its lead single of the same name which became his first number one song on the Billboard Tropical Songs chart.[28]

Between 1995 and 1996, Rodven released a compilation of themes named Oro Salsero, which was divided into two albums.[37] This period brought more personal hardship with the death of his brother Juan Félix Ruiz in New York. Journalist Alisa Valdes later recalled an episode of his addiction that took place after an appearance at Randolph, Massachusetts noting that he was already displaying signs of physical decline.[3]

On February 14, 1996, Ruiz performed in a Valentine's Day concert held at Madison Square Garden.[38] His final album Tranquilo was recorded in a studio in Santurce, Puerto Rico and was released in 1996. Its lead single, "Ironía", became another number one song on the Tropical Songs chart and ended the year as the best-performing Tropical/Salsa song.[28][39] For this achievement, the song won the award for "Tropical/Salsa Hot Latin Track of the Year" at the 1997 Billboard Latin Music Awards.[40]

Illness and return[edit]

Diagnosis and hospitalizations[edit]

In 1996, his liver began to fail leading to a hospitalization and a temporary coma, during which his vocal cords were damaged when an intubation process was undertaken.[41] Initially Ruiz was unable to speak and was worried about his career.[41] Shortly afterwards, his relationship with Judith Ruiz ended, and he moved from Florida and settled in New Jersey.[19][42]

The latter stages of his career were affected by a rocky relationship with his son, and an unstable singing career.[43] On August 9, 1993, Ruiz performed at a music festival in Weehawken, New Jersey, where Rosemary Salvador was working one of the booths.[11] There, after decades, he reunited with Joe Salvador and offered him a job as his agent. There was a reunion at the Salvador family home, where the family was mourning the passing of their patriarch, Peter.[11] Ruiz was reintroduced to a now-adult Rosemary, whom he invited (along with Rosario Salvador) to attend one of his performances, despite her expressed disinterest in salsa.[8] This eventually led to a relationship between them, which was made official by an invitation to see Carlito's Way in a local theater.[19] Their relationship was not well received by her family, in particular by her brother Peter, Jr. and his wife Nancy, whose religious lifestyle conflicted with the singer's hedonistic one.[44] Rosemary attempted to enroll Ruiz in a rehabilitation program, but he refused vehemently.[45] The couple settled on Boulevard East in Guttenberg, New Jersey before moving to New York Avenue in Jersey City.[19][42][46]

In January 1997, Ruiz's health continued to decline as a result of his lifestyle, leading to the development of cirrhosis and hepatitis, which resulted in three hospitalizations that lasted for months and extended throughout August.[44] The worst of these bouts resulted in a temporary coma, where he was placed on a respirator, his case considered virtually hopeless by the staff at University Hospital.[44] However, Ruiz recovered and was introduced to Santería by a friend who practiced it and suggested that he try it to assist in his healing.[44] He adopted this person's Godmother, who inducted him into the practice, and provided a home throughout a week of induction rituals during which he reported seeing "things [that were] giants".[43][47] However, this brush with death became a fixation for Ruiz, who was convinced that he would die soon and suspected that his liver would be the cause of his death.[1] Ruiz attended the Billboard Latin Music Conference that started on April 28, 1997, at the InterContinental Miami.[48] There he was honored and promised to straighten his life before a crowd that witnessed him in a vulnerable state caused by his health issues.[48]

The public also supported his recovery, despite a year having passed since his last formal performance or interview.[49][50] Feeling a debt to his fans, Ruiz started preparing for a comeback.[50] His managers, who had remained in constant contact with him, continually offered him work, which he formally accepted in November 1997.[50] Despite initial concerns about losing the ability to sing, Ruiz was able to brush his inactivity off and successfully resumed his career on November 8, 1997, at the Tropicana club in North Bergen, New Jersey.[50] His brother Viti and stepbrother Nelson encouraged him, and Salvador bought him a new outfit for the occasion, while his brothers in law, Peter and Joe, also joined other acquaintances to witness his performance at the club.[50] Arriving at the Tropicana, Ruiz rendezvoused with his band and booking agent Avellino Pozo, before beginning his performance before a sizable crowd.[51] Despite now possessing a rougher voice, the performance was considered a success and he soon began a tour of clubs that continued in the Bronx.[51] Ruiz resumed his career wearing bracelets, beads and white clothing required by his religion for first year practitioners. This attracted inquiries from media personalities.[52] He also furnished his house with candles and figures of a number of orishas, but soon became tired of Santaria's dietary restrictions and protocols.[53]

Introspection and sobriety[edit]

On November 30, 1997, Rosemary Salvador convinced Ruiz to attend a service held at her brother and his wife's house at their insistence.[54] There, after discussing the origin of Santaría, and a philosophical exchange with those present, he decided to join their congregation and became a born again Christian.[55] As before, Ruiz opted to refurbish his apartment to reflect this change in his religious affiliation.[56] The following morning, he began recording lines on a tape recorder.[57] These were Ruiz's first steps into religious music, a move that was also reflected in his daily life as the couple purchased a new bible, other prayer booklets, and Christian icons, and began hosting fellowships in their home which also included the participation of his mother in law, Rosario.[42][57] His new faith, and his salsa background, were merged in his selection of a large gold cross that he wore around his neck while performing and which featured prominently on the cover of his last album, Nacimiento y Recuerdos.[42] Ruiz remained unaffiliated with any particular church, and avoided congregations, but reflected his new faith in these activities.[58] However, during fellowships, signs that both his physical and mental health were compromised were witnessed by attendees, who noted that his past hedonism was still affecting him.[59] Ruiz himself was experiencing persistent insomnia and had a number of nightmares that featured menacing voices and figures, as well as bouts of a dual personality.[60][61] His symptoms decreased systematically, as noted by the same people present at previous meetings, and by the sixth meeting he appeared normal.[61] During this time, Ruiz avoided drugs and alcohol; struggling with abandoning the lifestyle, he kept these addictions at bay with the help of family and friends.[49]

He also became more judicious about his musical appearances, only accepting select work.[6] On December 24, 1997, the couple became engaged.[19] That winter was active for Ruiz, who was booked to play two shows on New Year's Eve – one in New Jersey and the other in New York. He counteracted his hectic schedule with meditative reunions with family and friends before his performances.[62][63] During these performances, Ruiz made his religious conversion public, a shock to an audience that had grown accustomed to his scandalous life. He sang a duet with his brother and danced with his fiancée.[63][64] Although his new faith had helped him lose his fear of death, he was well aware of the seriousness of his cirrhosis.[16] Consequently, he contacted his family, including his estranged relatives such as Yaritza who had since given birth to his granddaughter Tiffany, during the Christmas season.[16] Other acquaintances, such as Hector Camacho, also visited him during the holidays. In February 1998, the couple traveled to Puerto Rico to meet with his daughter and other relatives, including his grandmother, spending a memorable ten-day vacation.[65][66]

Final production and death[edit]

Recording "Vuelvo a Nacer"[edit]

Prior to leaving on vacation Ruiz was informed that PolyGram Records would soon be ready to record his next album, and he decided to hold a reunion with his producer, Vinny Urrutia, during this voyage.[67] During this meeting, the singer negotiated the inclusion of a song that reflected the changes he had experienced – "Vuelvo a Nacer" written by Myriam Valentín (Urrutia's wife), who was a poet.[68] On February 13, 1998, Paterson mayor Martin G. Barnes hosted a ceremony for Ruiz, during which he gave him the key to the city.[69] This event was attended by a large number of relatives and acquaintances, to whom he dedicated his success.[69]

Prior to the recording of his next album, Ruiz completed a hectic schedule during the remainder of February and March, which was further complimented by a number of impromptu presentations.[70] During this period the couple held the meditative sessions that had been adopted during the winter to reflect on his fellowship. He also developed an interest in cinema, particularly religious films.[71] The couple also took time off to celebrate their birthdays during the first week of March.[72] Ruiz also had a number of medical appointments, and was forced to follow a regimen which his fiancée helped coordinate.[72]

Production of his next album was set to begin following the last series of scheduled concerts.[72] However, his health was declining noticeably, this time leading to exhaustion, forcing him to limit his activities in order to meet his demanding performance schedule.[72] He was experiencing pain during his shows, including one at the Latin Quarter during which he opted to preach in order to help him to ignore his discomfort.[73] Similar episodes with pain took place during his appearances in New Jersey and his final performance held on April 24, 1998, at the Crystal Nightclub in Miami, but Ruiz made an effort to hide his condition.[74] While in Florida, he reunited with Frankie, Jr. for a day of leisure.[75]

Recording of the new album began on May 3, 1998, in the same studio where Tranquilo was recorded in Santurce, Puerto Rico.[76] Urrutia and Vakentín had already completed preliminary arrangements and begun production.[77] Peter Velasquez was in charge of songwriting.[78] Ruiz began experiencing liver pain shortly after arriving, but pushed through it.[79] He familiarized himself with the arrangements and began recording, beginning with the singles "Vuelvo a Nacer" and "Que Siga la Fiesta".[80] However, he was not satisfied with the initial results, realizing that his voice was worsening quickly, but decided that he had to accept this situation.[80] The process was exhausting and he required frequent rest, with Salvador caring for him and praying constantly for his well-being.[81] Domingo Quiñones collaborated on "Vuelvo a Nacer".[81] Now entering the late stages of his disease, Ruiz's condition directly affected the progress of the recording, which concerned PolyGram forcing Salvador to appease the company.[82] Feeling the pressure, he decided to go ignore his symptoms, which had prevented recording for weeks, and hastened the process. He also compromised and met with the media.[83] Feeding off this newfound resolve, Ruiz began recording and first completed the final version of "Vuelvo a Nacer". He was content with it and it convinced PolyGram that he should continue.[84] The single became the focus of the entire schedule and a video was recorded as the next step and was completed, after a grueling day of filming, in Old San Juan.[85] By the time that recording was supposed to resume, Ruiz was no longer able to sing properly and the rest of the production was cancelled.[86]

Final days[edit]

Following the promotional photos, the couple returned to New Jersey for medical follow up .[87] His worsening condition prevented the fulfillment of one last project that Ruiz and Urruitia were planning, a production that would serve as an homage to fellow salsa singer Héctor Lavoe, who had died five years earlier.[14] Later that week, his condition worsened and he was admitted to University Hospital's intensive care unit. A large group of people organized prayer groups,[88] and news of his condition drew fans to the hospital.[88] Days later, his condition suddenly improved and Ruiz gave an interview to DJ Paco Navarro to address his health, thank fans for their support, and assert that he had faith.[89] On June 17, 1998, he was sent home in time to celebrate Father's Day.[90] While the couple spent their time trying to relax as much as possible while his condition was stable, Navarro and his employer, Mega 97.9, organized a large tribute concert at Madison Square Garden.[46] On July 9, 1998, Ruiz suffered severe complications [91] but within a day, his condition had improved considerably,[92] allowing him to attend his tribute show at Madison Square Garden[93]with his wife, Joe Salvador and Noly, as well as Viti, his family, staff and friends.[94] Ruiz was introduced to the audience following a speech, and walked onstage with Viti to cheers that lasted for minutes.[95] Overcome by emotion, he thanked the audience and wished them blessings, receiving a trophy that symbolized the homage from his brother.[95] Following an emotional reunion with his wife, the couple returned to their apartment still shaken by the unexpected magnitude of the crowd's reaction.[96]

During the following week, Ruiz's condition deteriorated rapidly, and he was unable to care for himself.[96] On July 17, 1998, Salvador and Noly took him for a scheduled visit to his doctor, who ordered him to be admitted to University Hospital immediately.[97] During this time, Rosemary would tend to him,[19] and despite his condition, Ruiz tried to be amicable with both strangers, family, and acquaintances who visited daily.[71] Ruiz was resigned to his situation and took refuge in his faith[97] asking only that Salvador remain with him.[98] Reporters were not allowed to see him but were updated indirectly.[99] These days were hectic, with the media hounding the family and people coming to visit to pray, provide food, or even to ask for autographs.[99] Family members who lived abroad rushed to the hospital along with his children.[100] During his final days, Ruiz was bedridden and immobilized, yet alert and attentive to his visitors.[101] While hospitalized, Ruiz apologized to his father for his condition and for only being able to see each other under these circumstances.[2] He also asked Torresola to play his music when he died.[2] Frankie Jr.'s mother attended to the media, while Salvador remained by his side.[101] In Puerto Rico, news of his condition was released by PolyGram representative Charlie Negrón.[102] In August, Ruiz decided to propose as his last request, which was accepted.[101] The impromptu wedding was planned to take place in his hospital room on August 7, but his condition forced it to be rescheduled for three days later.[103] However, the morning of August 9 Ruiz's was critical and only his family remained by his side.[104] He died at 11:40 p.m. at the age of 40.[105] Ruiz was survived by his children, grandchildren, his two brothers, and his wife. University Hospital did not release the cause of death, sending the media into a frenzy of speculation including suggestions that he had died from liver cancer or AIDS.[2]

Funeral and final hit[edit]

Ruiz's death affected Puerto Rican and Latin American fans and expressions of grief and affection were widespread.[106] His music received a lot of attention and was played in Latin American communities throughout the world.[2] Residents of Patterson played it on boomboxes and the local store quickly sold all of his albums.[2] A large ribbon was placed on Ruiz's former house at Grove Street in Paterson.[2]

His body was placed in a golden coffin and a vigil began at Ortiz Funeral Home in the Bronx as he had planned. For three days thousands of fans paid their respects.[107] His former booking agent, Carrie Sánchez, acknowledged that they had been preparing for this event since he first fell ill.[3] The mass was large but ordinate, and mourners systematically passed through a set of barricades to give gifts, bring flowers, personal messages of appreciation, or to pray or pay homage to Ruiz in their own way.[107] His coffin was covered by the flag of Puerto Rico, which became an ubiquitous gift brought by the masses visiting the funeral house.[108] This demonstrated the impact that Ruiz had on Puerto Rican popular culture.[108] Numerous Hispanics of other nationalities paid their respect as well.[108] This outpouring of emotion, and the number of mourners surprised even those close to Ruiz, who wondered if the singer realized the reach of his work in life.[107] His father was quoted as saying: "I knew my son was famous, but I never imagined he was so loved all over the world. He was much bigger than I thought he was."[2]

The final day of his wake in this funeral house, his band fulfilled Ruiz's demand to provide a free show with Viti singing some of his brother's songs despite his grief.[109] The following day, his body was taken to Newark Airport and transported to San Juan, along his family and friends.[109] Back in Puerto Rico, it was transported to Mayagüez, where a similar public wake took place.[109] In Puerto Rico, the process more closely resembled a baquiné, a local funerary rite usually reserved for children; instead of mourning, the person's life is celebrated and honored in joyous fashion; his body was received with plena (music and dance).[109] A procession to Mayagüez began, with his family following the hearse carrying his body close by, and thousands of cars joining along the way.[110] Pedestrians gathered along the road waving flags and, upon entering the municipality, his music was played at an event before thousands of attendees.[111] Among the artists performing were: Tito Rojas, Ismael Miranda, Roberto Roena and his former bands La Solución and the Tommy Olivencia Orquesta.[5] His body was placed in the Martínez Funeral Home, while the city mayor ordered flags to be flown at half mast out of respect.[112] As the wake was opened to the public, the same reaction seen in New York repeated it self.[112] The following day, his body was moved to the adjacent Mayagüez City Hall and received the honors reserved for a distinguished son; a public wake was held while more musicians played his repertoire.[112]

Following this, Salvador visited the members of his family who lived in Puerto Rico, including his grandmother, to bid them farewell before returning to Paterson.[113] There, Ruiz's final wake was held at the Minchin Funeral Home, attended by a similar numbers of public individuals and friends who lived in the area.[114] Following the final rites led by a priest, the flag of Puerto Rico was placed over his coffin and a final procession took him to Fair Lawn Memorial Cemetery, where his family members from Puerto Rico joined those in New Jersey. Following a ceremony led by a Catholic priest, his body was buried.[115]

A compilation containing "Vuelvo a Nacer" named Nacimiento y Recuerdos was released on August 25, 1998.[116] Nacimiento y Recuerdos was certified platinum in the Latin field by the RIAA.[117] The album debuted at number eight on Billboard's Hot Shot Debut and became Ruiz's biggest chart success.[118] His final single going on to become a hit.[41]


Immediate family[edit]

During the decade that followed his death, Viti decided to keep his brother's music alive, singing his hits as he grew successful throughout Latin America, particularly in Peru and Colombia.[119] Among the songs that he reinterpreted were: "Desnúdate Mujer", "Viajera", "Que se mueran de envidia", "La Cura" and "La Rueda", which he would sing along with original singles.[119] On June 9, 2007, the Copacabana nightclub hosted an homage to Ruiz; Ismael Rivera, Lavoe, and Viti performed Ruiz's songs.[120]

After his father's funeral, Frankie, Jr. returned to Miami and lived there until his adulthood.[20] He noted the number of people present at the event, and the emotions and admiration expressed during it. He then comprehended the kind of influence that his father had on the masses and his impact on tropical music.[20] Prior to this, Ruiz, Jr. assumed that his father was a successful, yet not necessarily influential, artist.[20] This notion was further fueled by the fact that while they were together, Ruiz, Sr. behaved like any other father and did not reflect a grandiose aura.[20] It was only after seeing the masses mourning, and singing his songs, that Ruiz, Jr. embraced his role as the son of someone of influential in the genre, and accepted the responsibility of continuing this legacy.[20] Ultimately, this inspired him to follow in his father's footsteps and he began taking singing classes with the approval of Judith Ruiz.[20] During this process, he studied the work of his father extensively, but focused on creating his own personal style instead of copying, but he did adopt the pseudonym of El Hijo de la Salsa in his father's honor.[20]

On September 20, 2003, Ruiz, Jr. made his debut as a musician in an homage to his father that was held in Tenerife called Va por ti, Frankie, singing the single Puerto Rico and joining several groups in recreating his father's repertoire.[27][121][122] He performed at this event along with: Lalo Rodríguez, Roberto Torres, José Alberto "El Canario", Luis Enrique, Servando y Florentino, Hansel, Luisito Carrión, Paquito Guzmán, Tommy Olivencia, Adalberto Santiago, Tito Allen, Son Iyá, and local artist Caco Senante.[27] In 2012 Ruiz, Jr. returned to Puerto Rico as a singer and confessed to being flooded with emotions remembering his last visit when he was 12 years old.[20] His local debut was scheduled for El Día Nacional de la Zalsa, a long running salsa event that is organized by Z-93, the largest local event of its nature, held at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 25, 2012.[20] Despite admitting to being nervous prior to the event due to the presence of established salsa performers, Ruiz, Jr. hoped that his long training would prove sufficient to please a public that admired his father.[20] He also noted that since the event was an homage of sorts to his father, [20] his repertoire included several of his classics including "Bailando", "La cura," "Puerto Rico", "Soy tuyo" and "Desnúdate mujer", as well as original songs.[20]

Other singers[edit]

On August 24, 1999, Cheo Feliciano released his own tribute to Ruiz and other late salsa singers, Una voz... Mil recuerdos in which "El camionero" was reinterpreted.[14] That same year, Nino Segarra released an album titled Romántico Salsero, which included that homage single, "Homenaje A Frankie Ruiz".[123] Jerry Rivera, who met Ruiz when he was 13 years old, and whom he considered his idol, recorded a tribute album titled Canto a mi Idolo...Frankie Ruiz in 2003 with Ruiz's songs.[124] The album cover contains a photo of Rivera and Ruiz taken by Rivera's father. The album received a nomination for Best Salsa Album at the 2004 Latin Grammy Awards.[125] The video for the re-release of "Puerto Rico" was recorded in Mayagüez, as an homage.[126] In 2004, another tribute album Va Por Ti, Frankie was released featuring various artists.[127]

During the summer of 2003, four singles composed for Ruiz, but never recorded, resurfaced at the hands of Urrutia.[128] The songs, first composed in 1997–1998 during Ruiz's late career comeback, were stored for the next 16 years following the singer's death.[128] One of the main reasons behind this decision was that Urrutia felt unsatisfied with the potential candidates to record the singles and opted to wait for someone that he felt could accomplish the task.[128] Eventually, the sound engineer discovered Charlie Cruz, then a young salsa singer from Naguabo, Puerto Rico, who happened to have been inspired by Ruiz and Lavoe.[128] Despite being hand-selected, Cruz acknowledged that Ruiz had a unique style and that he had no interest in copying it, or replacing him, or becoming a contemporary version of Ruiz.[128]

The singer attempted instead to record the themes using his own style as an homage, naming his production Huellas (meaning "footprints") in reference to the trailblazing done by Ruiz decades earlier.[128] According to Cruz's own assessment, the single "Locos como yo" is the one that remains closest to its inspiration, with the others being "Me rindo", "Labios de púrpura", "Locos como yo" and "Hay que seguir palante" (in which Quiñones reprised his previous role.[128] Urrutia was among those involved in its production, and the cover features an image of Cruz standing near Ruiz's grave and a note addressed to the late singer.[128]

Compendiums and re-releases[edit]

In 1999, Universal Music Latino published a compendium titled La Leyenda de un Sonero, which remastered some of his previous work.[14] Five years after his death, Universal Music Latino released Éxitos Eternos which includes the unfinished track "Que Siga la Fiesta". The song's length was extended by repeating its soneos and choruses and was remastered to improve its sound.[129]

Other homages[edit]

The 1999 Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts was dedicated to Ruiz, and featured Viti as one of its invited performers.[7] The event was highlighted by a parade where his hits, especially "Puerto Rico", were played over the speakers.[7] Its organizer, focused the narrative of the festival on an anti-drug message, and noted in a later interview that Ruiz was an example of an unexpected death caused by a life of excess that had impacted him personally.[130]

In 1999, the municipality of Mayagüez dedicated their yearly fiesta patronal to Ruiz; Viti was featured as guest singer.[131] The municipal government later renamed an auditorium next to the Palacio de Recreación y Deportes in Ruiz's honor. The municipality of Carolina, Puerto Rico also held tribute shows as part of its Noches de Música Tropical series.[13] At this event, figures like Elías Lopés and the La Mulenze orquesta performed some of his singles such as: "Esta cobardía", "La rueda", "Tú me vuelves loco", "Bailando", "Ironía" and "Mi libertad".[13]

His was remembered by an event organized by SalSoul to commemorate its 50th Anniversary.[132] His single "Puerto Rico", reinterpreted by Juan Pablo Díaz and Issac Delgado, served as the cornerstone of Cuba y Puerto Rico son..., a cross-cultural project produced by Popular, Inc. which mostly centered around salsa.[133]


While performing, Ruiz was a tenor, and his voice was described as decidedly juvenile sounding despite his physical age, something that he employed to execute a style that was regarded as "dazzling" and "passionate".[3][37] However, he was protective of his voice, usually speaking in a low tone, and performing exercises to help him perform, leading to a dichotomy between his singing and conversation tones which surprised new acquaintances.[25] His tracks have been described as reminiscent of a hybrid between popular music and modern salsa, with the percussion being prominently featured.[4] The narrative was heavily focused in the daily life of Latinos, from their hardships to their traditions.[4] He became known for his improvisational skills, something that he expressed with creativity and expressiveness through his voice, and which were described as capable of turning mediocre lyrics into a hit song.[134]

Ruiz was not particularly motivated by money or wealth, but rather by a sense that it was his destiny to become a singer.[108] He continued enjoying showmanship, and would dance to the rhythm to provide additional entertainment.[3] The quality of his performances was commonly characterized by an empathy between him and his public, where Ruiz would attempt to entertain a lively audience to the point of exhaustion and anthropomorphized the masses as a single entity, his "Public".[108]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Torresola and the second or maternal family name is Ruiz.


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  • Ornelas, Charles (April 2002). Born Again, How Rich!. Editorial Diana. ISBN 0976915405. 

External links[edit]