La Lupe

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La Lupe
Birth name Lupe Victoria Yolí
Also known as La Lupe
La Yiyiyi
"La Reina de la Cancion Latina (The Queen of Latin Soul)"
Born (1939-12-23)December 23, 1939
Origin Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Died February 29, 1992(1992-02-29) (aged 52)
Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Salsa, Bolero
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1958–1980
Associated acts Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Celia Cruz

La Lupe (born Lupe Victoria Yolí ) (Santiago de Cuba, 23 December 1939[1]Bronx, New York City, New York, 29 February 1992),[2] was a Cuban singer of several musical genres, including boleros, guarachas and Latin soul in particular, known for her energetic, sometimes controversial performances.


La Lupe was born in the barrio of San Pedrito in Santiago de Cuba. Her father was a worker at the local Bacardi distillery and a major influence on her early life. In 1954 she participated on a radio program which invited fans to sing imitations of their favorite stars. Lupe escaped from school to sing a bolero of Olga Guillot's, called Miénteme (Lie to me), and won the competition. The family moved to Havana in 1955, where she was enrolled at the University of Havana to become a teacher. She admired Celia Cruz and like her, she graduated of teaching before starting to sing.[3]

Lupe married in 1958 and formed a musical trio with her husband Eulogio "Yoyo" Reyes and another female singer. This group, Los Tropiccuba, broke up along with the marriage in 1960. She began to perform her own act at a small nightclub in Havana, La Red (The Net), which had a clientele of distinguished foreigners. She acquired a devoted following, which included Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Marlon Brando.[citation needed] She released her first album, Con el Diablo en el cuerpo (With the Devil in my body) in 1960, for RCA Victor. Her first television appearance on Puerto Rican television caused a stir due to her frenzied, vibrant performance, which reportedly shocked some viewers.[4]

In 1962 she was exiled to México. She approached Celia Cruz and asked for her support to get work, and in turn, Celia recommended her to Mongo Santamaría in New York. In New York City, Lupe performed at a cabaret named La Barraca and started a new career, making more than 10 records in five years. She married a second time, to salsa musician Willie García, with whom she had a daughter. That marriage also ended in divorce.[4]

Lupe's passionate performances covered the range of music: son montuno, bolero, boogaloo, venturing into other Caribbean styles like Dominican merengue, Puerto Rican bomba and plena. It was her recordings which brought Tite Curet Alonso into prominence as a composer of tough-minded boleros in the salsa style. For a good part of the 1960s she was the most acclaimed Latin singer in New York City due to her partnership with Tito Puente. She did a wide variety of cover versions in either Spanish or accented English, including "Yesterday", "Dominique" by The Singing Nun, "Twist & Shout", "Unchained Melody", "Fever" and "America" from West Side Story. FRED WEINBERG, who was her favorite audio engineer, also produced several of her albums. Weinberg called La Lupe "A Hurricane" in the studio due to her intense singing and enthusiasm.

The quality of her performances became increasingly decadent. There were persistent rumours of her drug addiction and her life was "a real earthquake" according to statements of close friends.[5] She ended some of her on-stage engagements being treated with an oxygen mask.[4] Although she may have been poorly managed by her label Fania Records in particular, she managed and produced herself in mid-career, after she parted ways with Tito Puente.[5] However, since the late 60s her ephemeral career went downhill, the explosion of the salsa and the arrival of Celia Cruz to New York, were the determining factors to let her into the background and her career declined promptly.

Religious beliefs[edit]

A devout follower of Santería, she continued to practice her religion putting at risk the fortune and fame she had acquired through her short career. Her record label, Fania Records, ended her contract in the late 1970s, perhaps simply because of her falling record sales. She retired in 1980, and found herself destitute by the early 1980s. In 1984 she injured her spine while trying to hang a curtain in her humble home; she initially used a wheelchair, then later a cane.[6] An electrical fire made her homeless. After being healed at an evangelical Christian Crusade, La Lupe abandoned her Santería roots and became a born-again Christian. In 1991, she gave a concert at La Sinagoga in New York, singing Christian songs.[7]


She died of a heart attack at 52 years of age. She died alone and with many enemies. When found dead.[8] She was survived by her second husband William García, son René Camaño (from her first marriage) and her daughter Rainbow García (from her second marriage). She is buried in Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.[9]

Further information[edit]


Original LPs[edit]

This section is believed to be complete:

  • Con el Diablo en el cuerpo 1960 Discuba LP
  • La Lupe is back 1961
  • Mongo introduces La Lupe 1963
  • The King swings, the incredible Lupe sings 1965 (with Tito Puente)
  • Tú y yo 1965 (with Tito Puente)
  • Homenaje a Rafael Hernández 1966 (with Tito Puente)
  • La Lupe y su alma venezolana 1966
  • A mí me llaman La Lupe 1966
  • The King and I 1967 (with Tito Puente)
  • The Queen does her own thing 1967
  • Two sides of La Lupe 1968
  • Queen of Latin soul 1968
  • La Lupe's era 1968
  • La Lupe is the Queen 1969
  • Definitely la Yiyiyi 1969
  • That genius called the Queen 1970
  • La Lupe en Madrid 1971
  • Stop, I'm free again 1972
  • ¿Pero cómo va ser? 1973
  • Un encuentro con La Lupe – with Curet Alonso 1974
  • One of a kind 1977
  • La pareja 1978 (with Tito Puente)
  • En algo nuevo 1980. Last original album


This section is not complete.

  • Lo mejor de la Lupe Compilation, 1974
  • Apasionada Compilation, 1978
  • La Lupe: too much 1989. Compilation from Tico recordings only, by Charly Records LP HOT 123
  • Dance with the Queen 2008
  • La Lupe greatest hits 2008

Religious albums 1986–89[edit]

  • La samaritana
  • Te amo porque me amaste primero
  • Dios no es hombre para que mienta
  • La Lupe en Cristo

Key numbers[edit]

Short list of characteristic numbers, taken from Giro Radamés' Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba and compilation albums:

  • Con el Diablo en el cuerpo (With the devil in my body)
  • Fiebre (Fever)
  • Crazy heart
  • Qué te pedí?
  • La tirana [Tico SLP 1167]
  • Puro teatro (Pure theatre) [Tico SLP 1192]
  • Adíos (Goodbye)
  • Carcajada final (Last laugh) [Tico SLP 1176]
  • A Benny Moré [Tico CLP 1310]

Films, theatre[edit]

  • La Lupe: my life, my destiny: theatrical production by Carmen Rivera (2001).
  • La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul film by Ela Troyano (2003; 2007)
  • La Reina, La Lupe by Rafael Albertori (2003).

Popular Culture[edit]

In 1991, comedian Sandra Bernhard released a track called 'La Lupe" on her album Excuses for Bad Behavior, Part #1, spoken in Spanish and English, in which Bernhard briefly speaks of the dissolution of the La Lupe/Tito Puente relationship.

In 2015, a character similar to La Lupe was portrayed in an 80 episode Spanish language television biography of Celia Cruz -"Celia".


  1. ^ Guadalupe "La Lupe" Yoli from Find A Grave
  2. ^ Giro cites 28 February 1992 as the date of death.
  3. ^ Giro, p45.
  4. ^ a b c Pedro Rojas 1988. sleeve notes to La Lupe: too much, Charly Records LP HOT 123
  5. ^ a b Rondon, César Miguel 2008. The book of salsa: a chronicle of urban music from the Caribbean to New York City. University of North Carolina Press; p148
  6. ^ La Lupe, a Singer, Is Dead at 53; Known as "Queen of Latin Soul" from The New York Times 7 March 1992
  7. ^ Knights, Vanessa 2001. Performances of pain and pleasure (Divas sing the bolero). Institute of Popular Music Seminar Series. University of Liverpool
  8. ^ Remembering LA LUPE from Latin Beat Magazine May 2000
  9. ^ Resurrecting La Lupe, a Wild and Soulful Singer Whose Life Fell Apart from The New York Times 27 June 2001
  10. ^ Show uses Mott Haven streets to tell story of the Bronx from 5 December 2009

Further reading[edit]

  • Aparicio, Frances R. (1998), Listening to Salsa: gender, Latin popular music, and Puerto Rican cultures, Wesleyan University Press, pp. 176 et seq. 
  • Aparicio, Frances R. & Valentín-Escobar, Wilson A. (2004), "Memorializing La Lupe and Lavoe: singing vulgarity, transnationalism, and gender", Centro: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies 16: 78–101 

External links[edit]