Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna
July 16, 1948
Panama City, Panama
|Minister of Tourism of Panama|
Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna (born July 16, 1948), known professionally as Rubén Blades (Spanish: [ruˈβem ˈblaðes], but [- ˈbledz] in Panama and within the family), is a Panamanian musician, singer, composer, actor, activist, and politician, performing musically most often in the salsa, and Latin jazz genres. As a songwriter, Blades brought the lyrical sophistication of Central American nueva canción and Cuban nueva trova as well as experimental tempos and politically inspired Son Cubano salsa to his music, creating "thinking persons' (salsa) dance music". Blades has written dozens of hit songs, including "Pedro Navaja" and "El Cantante" (which became Héctor Lavoe's signature song). He has won nine Grammy Awards out of seventeen nominations and five Latin Grammy Awards.
His acting career began in 1983, and has continued, sometimes with several-year breaks to focus on other projects. He has prominent roles in films such as Crossover Dreams (1985), The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Super (1991), Predator 2 (1990), Color of Night (1994), Safe House (2012), The Counselor (2013) and Hands of Stone (2016), along with three Emmy Award nominations for his performances in The Josephine Baker Story (1991), Crazy from the Heart (1992) and The Maldonado Miracle (2003). He portrayed Daniel Salazar, a main character on the TV series Fear the Walking Dead (2015–2017; 2019–present).
He is an icon in Panama and is much admired throughout Latin America and Spain, and managed to attract 17% of the vote in his failed attempt to win the Panamanian presidency in 1994. In September 2004, he was appointed minister of tourism by Panamanian president Martín Torrijos for a five-year term. He holds a Bachelor of Arts' Law degree from the University of Panama and an LL.M in International Law from Harvard University. He is married to singer Luba Mason.
Family history and early life
Blades was born in Panama City, Panama. He is the son of Cuban musician and actress Anoland Díaz (real surname Bellido de Luna), and Colombian Rubén Darío Blades, Sr., an athlete, percussionist and graduate of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Washington, D.C. His mother's great-uncle, Juan Bellido de Luna, was active in the Cuban revolutionary movement against Spain and was a writer and publisher in New York City. Blades's paternal grandfather, Rubén Blades, was an English-speaking native of St. Lucia who came to Panama as an accountant. His family is uncertain how the Blades family ended up in St. Lucia, but when his grandfather moved to Panama, he lived in the Panamanian Bocas del Toro Province. Blades thought that his grandfather had come to Panama to work on the Panama Canal, as he tells in the song "West Indian Man" on the album Amor y Control ("That's where the Blades comes from") (1992). He explains the source and the pronunciation (//) of his family surname, which is of English origin, in his web show Show De Ruben Blades (SDRB).
In Blades's early days, he was a vocalist in Los Salvajes del Ritmo, and also a songwriter and guest singer with a professional Latin music conjunto (ensemble), Bush y sus Magníficos. His strongest influence of the day was the Joe Cuba sextet and Cheo Feliciano, whose singing style he copied to the point of imitating his voice tone and vocal range.
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Blades earned degrees in political science and law at the Universidad Nacional de Panamá and performed legal work at the Bank of Panama as a law student. After graduating in 1974, he moved to the U.S. and stayed with his exiled parents in Miami, Florida, before moving to New York City. Andy Harlow said that "he used to sleep on my couch while he worked at Fania (Records); used to say "I write songs, too."
His first recording in the United States of America was the solo album, De Panamá a New York, with the Pete Rodriguez Orchestra, which included original compositions such as "Juan Gonzalez", "Descarga Caliente" and "De Panamá a New York", which were recorded in New York City by Alegre Records in 1970. He then returned to Panamá and finished his degree.
Blades began his career in New York City writing songs while working in the mailroom at Fania Records. Soon Blades was working with salseros Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow. Shortly thereafter, Blades started collaborating with trombonist and bandleader Willie Colón. They recorded several albums together and participated in albums by plena singer Mon Rivera and the Fania All Stars.
Blades's first notable hit was a song on the 1977 album Metiendo Mano that he had composed in 1968: "Pablo Pueblo", a meditation about a working-class father who returns to his home after a long day at work. The song later became his unofficial campaign song when he ran for president of Panama. The Colón and Blades recording on the same album of Tite Curet Alonso's composition, "Plantación Adentro", which dealt with the brutal treatment of Indian natives in Latin America's colonial times, was a hit in various Caribbean countries. He wrote and performed several songs with the Fania All Stars and as a guest on other artists' releases, including the hits "Paula C", written about a girlfriend at the time; "Juan Pachanga", about a party animal who buries his pain for a lost love in dance and drink; and "Sin Tu Cariño", a love song, featuring a bomba break. The latter two songs feature piano solos by the Puerto Rican pianist Papo Lucca.
In 1978, Blades wrote the song "El Cantante"; Colón convinced him to give the song to Colón's former musical partner, Héctor Lavoe, to record, since Lavoe's nickname was already "El Cantante de los Cantantes" ("the singer of singers"). Lavoe recorded it that same year, and it became both a big hit and Lavoe's signature song; a biographical film, El Cantante about Lavoe took the same title. (The film El Cantante, starring executive producer Marc Anthony and then wife Jennifer López, told a fictionalized version of this story, in which Blades tells Lavoe he wrote the song for him.)
The Colón and Blades album Siembra (1978) became the best-selling salsa record in history. It has sold over 25 million copies, and almost all of its songs were hits at one time or another in various Latin American countries. Its most famous song was "Pedro Navaja", a song inspired by the 1928 song "Mack the Knife"; it tells the story of a neighborhood thug who is killed by a street walker who knows him (he stabs her, she shoots him, they both die, a bum finds them, and takes his belongings). The song inspired a 1980 Puerto Rican musical, La verdadera historia de Pedro Navaja, and a 1984 Mexican film, Pedro Navaja, neither of which had Blades' involvement. Blades wrote and sang a sequel song, "Sorpresas", (surprises) on his 1985 album, Escenas, which revealed that Pedro had survived the incident and was still alive.
Blades became dissatisfied with Fania and tried to terminate his contract, but was legally obliged to record several more albums. Maestra Vida and its follow-up Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos are highlights.
In 1982, Blades got his first acting role, in The Last Fight, portraying a singer-turned-boxer vying for a championship against a fighter who was played by real-life world-champion boxer Salvador Sánchez. In 1984, he released Buscando América, and in 1985, Blades gained widespread recognition as co-writer and star of the independent film Crossover Dreams as a New York salsa singer willing to do anything to break into the mainstream. Blades also began his career in films scoring music for soundtracks. Also in 1985, he earned a master's degree in international law from Harvard Law School. He was the subject of Robert Mugge's documentary The Return of Rubén Blades, which debuted at that year's Denver Film Festival. He also recorded a segment for the 60 Minutes television program, interviewed by Morley Safer.
In 1984, Blades left Fania, and signed with Elektra, although Fania continued to release recordings compiled from their archives for some years afterwards. Blades assembled a top-notch band (known variously as Seis del Solar or Son del Solar) and began touring and recording with them. His first album with them, Escenas included a duet with Linda Ronstadt (1985), won Blade his first Grammy Award, for Best Tropical Latin Album. He then recorded the album Agua de Luna, based on the short stories of writer Gabriel García Márquez, in 1987. The next year he released the English-language collaboration Nothing But the Truth, with rock artists Sting, Elvis Costello, and Lou Reed whose song "The Hit" aka its main chorus "Don't Double Cross the Ones You Love", appeared in the opening and closing credits of Sidney Lumet's 1990 crime drama film Q & A; also in 1988 he released the more traditionally salsa Antecedente, again with Seis del Solar, which again won a Grammy Award.
During the 1990s, he acted in films and continued to make records with Seis/Son del Solar. In 1994, he mounted his unsuccessful Panamanian presidential bid, founding the party, Movimiento Papa Egoró. The album that followed this experience, La Rosa de los Vientos. He also made the award winning music such as Pena and Amor y Control, won the 1997 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance, and all its songs were by Panamanian songwriters, recorded using all Panamanian musicians. In 1996, Blades along with Son Miserables performed "No Te Miento (I Am Not Lying [to you])" for the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin produced by the Red Hot Organization. In 1997, Blades headed the cast of singer/songwriter Paul Simon's first Broadway musical, The Capeman, based on a true story about a violent youth who becomes a poet in prison, which also starred Marc Anthony and Ednita Nazario. His many film appearances include The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Two Jakes (1990), Predator 2 (1990), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Color of Night (1994), and Devil's Own (1997). He also guest-starred in an amusing episode of The X Files titled, "El Mundo Gira" ("As The World Turns"). He played immigration agent (la migra), Conrad Lozano, who works with Mulder and Scully to solve unexplained murders involving both rural California migrant workers and the Mexican folklore of El Chupacabra. In 1999, he played Mexican artist Diego Rivera in Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock. In the 2003 film Once Upon a Time in Mexico, starring Johnny Depp, Antonio Banderas, and Willem Dafoe, he played the role of a retired FBI agent.
Blades's 1999 album Tiempos, which he recorded with musicians from the Costa Rican groups Editus and Sexteto de Jazz Latino, represented a break from his salsa past and a further rejection of commercial trends in Latin music. Ironically, the album won a Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album. Blades was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Even more eclectic was the 2002 album Mundo with the 11-member Editus Ensemble and bagpiper Eric Rigler, which incorporated instruments from around the world. Mundo won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album, and was also nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The same year, Blades guested on world music artist Derek Trucks' album, Joyful Noise. In 2003 he followed Mundo with a web site free-download project. Blades was presented with the Founders Award at the 2005 ASCAP Latin Awards. In 2004, he put his artistic career on hold when he began serving a five-year appointment as Panama's minister of tourism. Beginning in June 2007, however, Blades turned some of his attention back to his artistic career, presenting an online TV show titled Show de Ruben Blades (SDRB) on his website.
In May 2007, Blades was sued by his former bandmate, Willie Colón for breach of contract. This led to a series of suits and countersuits that lasted over five years. A book titled Decisiones detailing the inside story of this legal battle was written by Blades' former agent, Robert J. Morgalo and published in 2016 in English and Spanish.
In the middle of 2008 he took a leave of absence for a mini-tour in Europe, backed by the Costa Rican band Son de Tikizia. When his government service was completed in June 2009, he reunited the members of Seis del Solar for the 25th anniversary of Buscando América in an ambitious tour of the Americas.
In June 2011, Blades was given the Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award by ASCAP and WhyHunger.
In 2015, Blades' album Tangos won a Grammy award for Best Latin Pop Album.
In 2015, Blades was cast in the regular role of Daniel Salazar in the AMC post-apocalyptic drama Fear the Walking Dead, a companion series to The Walking Dead. Blades first appears in the second episode "So Close, Yet So Far".
|1983||The Last Fight||Andy 'Kid Clave'||Film|
|1985||Crossover Dreams||Rudy Veloz||Film|
|1987||Sting: They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)||Unknown||Video Short|
|1987||Fatal Beauty||Detective Carl Jimenez||Film|
|1988||The Milagro Beanfield War||Sheriff Bernabe Montoya||Film|
|1989||Dead Man Out||Ben||Television Film|
|1989||Disorganized Crime||Carlos Barrios||Film|
|1989||The Lemon Sisters||C.W.||Film|
|1989||Cinemax Sessions||Unknown||Episode: "Latino Sessions"|
|1990||Mo' Better Blues||Petey||Film|
|1990||The Two Jakes||Michael 'Mickey Nice' Weisskopf||Film|
|1990||Predator 2||Danny 'Danny Boy' Archuleta||Film|
|1990||Heart of the Deal||Unknown||Film|
|1991||The Josephine Baker Story||Count Giuseppe Pepito Abatino||Television Film|
|1991||One Man's War||Horacio Galeano Perrone||Television Film|
|1991||Crazy from the Heart||Ernesto Ontiveros||Television Film|
|1991||Ruben Blades: Camaleon||Unknown||Video Short|
|1993||Miracle on Interstate 880||Pastor Beruman||Television Film|
|1993||Life with Mikey||Angie's Dad (uncredited)||Film|
|1994||A Million to Juan||Bartender||Film|
|1994||Color of Night||Lieutenant Hector Martinez||Film|
|1995||Scorpion Spring||Border Patrolman Sam Zaragosa||Film|
|1996||Eres mi Canción||Singer||Video Short|
|1996||Al compas de un sentimiento||Singer||Film|
|1997||The Devil's Own||Officer Edwin 'Eddie' Diaz||Film|
|1997||The X-Files||Conrad Lozano||Episode: "El Mundo Gira"|
|1997||Falls Road||Luis Juega||Television Film|
|1999||Cradle Will Rock||Diego Rivera||Film|
|2000||All the Pretty Horses||Hector De La Rocha||Film|
|2000–2001||Gideon's Crossing||Dr. Max Cabranes||Main role: 20 episodes (Season 1)|
|2002||Resurrection Blvd.||Martin||Episode: "Verguenza"|
|2003||The Maldonado Miracle||Cruz||Television Film|
|2003||Once Upon a Time in Mexico||FBI Agent Jorge Ramirez||Film|
|2003||Imagining Argentina||Silvio Ayala||Film|
|2005||Secuestro express||Carla's Father||Film|
|2009||Spoken Word||Cruz Sr.||Film|
|2011||La siguiente estación||Benito||Short|
|2012||Safe House||Carlos Villar||Film|
|2012||For Greater Glory – The True Story of Cristiada||President Calles||Film|
|Fear the Walking Dead||Daniel Salazar||Main role (Seasons 1–3; Season 5–present)|
|2016||Hands of Stone||Carlos Eleta||Film|
- 1970 De Panama a New York (Fania)
- 1975 The Good, the Bad, the Ugly with Willie Colón
- 1977 Metiendo Mano (Codigo/Fania)
- 1978 Siembra (Codigo/Fania)
- 1980 Siembra Live (Codigo/Fania)
- 1980 Maestra Vida: Primera Parte (Codigo/Fania)
- 1980 Maestra Vida: Segunda Parte (Codigo/Fania)
- 1981 Canciones Del Solar De Los Aburridos (Emusica/Fania)
- 1982 The Last Fight (Emusica/Fania)
- 1982 El Que la Hace la Paga (Emusica/Fania)
- 1984 Buscando América (Elektra)
- 1985 Escenas (Elektra)
- 1986 Doble Filo (Fania)
- 1986 Crossover Dreams (Elektra)
- 1986 Agua de Luna (Elektra)
- 1988 Ruben Blades with Strings (Fania)
- 1988 Antecedente (Elektra)
- 1988 Nothing But the Truth
- 1990 Ruben Blades y Son del Solar...Live! (Elektra)
- 1991 Caminando (Sony)
- 1992 Amor y Control (Sony)
- 1993 Joseph & His Brothers (Rabbit Ears)
- 1996 Rosa de los Vientos (Sony)
- 1998 Best Of Rubén Blades (Salsa Masters)
- 1999 Tiempos (Sony)
- 2002 Mundo (Sony)
- 2009 Cantares del Subdesarrollo (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2011 Todos Vuelven: Live, Vol. 1 (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2011 Todos Vuelven: Live, Vol. 2 (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2012 Eba Say Aja (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2014 Tangos (Sunnyside)
- 2015 Son de Panama (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2017 Almost Like Praying
- 2017 Salsa Big Band (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2018 Medoro Madera (Ruben Blades Productions)
- 2018 Una Noche con Rubén Blades (Blue Engine Records)
- 2019 Rubén Blades Presenta Paraiso Road Gang (Ruben Blades Productions)
Awards and nominations
Latin Grammy Awards
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 261. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
- "Show de Rubén Blades No. 18". Archived from the original on 2010-05-31. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "Past Winners Search". Grammy.com. 30 April 2017.
- "Latin Grammy Winners". Grammy.com.
- [dead link]
- "Luba Mason – Bio". Lubamason.com.
- "Juan Bellido de Luna". Latinamericanstudies.org. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
- episode No. 18 close to seven minutes into the recording; http://vimeo.com/1251488; at minute 6:52.
- Marton, Betty (1992). Ruben Blades. Chelsea House Publication. p. 15.
- "De Panama a New York - Rubén Blades, Orquesta De Pete Rodriguez | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic.
- Cruz, Barbara (1992). Ruben Blades, Salsa Singer and Social Activist. Enslow Publishers. p. 85. ISBN 978-0894908934.
- "International Latin Music Hall of Fame Announces Inductees for 2001". 3 April 2001. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Pérez Tops ASCAP Latin Awards". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
- "Ruben Blades recibio doctorado honorifico del Berklee College of Music el 1ro de Noviembre durante la celebración de la Semana de la Cultura Latina". Latin Beat Magazine (in Spanish). December 1, 2005. Archived from the original on January 30, 2013 – via HighBeam Research.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2021-08-15. Retrieved 2021-08-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Manual, Rudy (June 16, 2010). "Ruben Blades, Cantares del Subdesarrollo". Latin Beat: 28.
- Alida Piñon Enviada (October 26, 2014). "Clausuran el Festival Internacional Cervantino 2014". El Universal. Mexico City. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
- "Here Are Your 2015 Grammy Winners". Vulture.com.
- "Panama salsa singer Ruben Blades mulls second run at presidency", Reuters, October 12, 2014.
- Quintín Moreno, "Rubén Blades seguirá cantando y aclara sus aspiraciones políticas", La Estrella de Panamá, February 20, 2015 (in Spanish).
- "Ruben Blades Cast in AMC's 'Fear The Walking Dead'". Horrornewsnetwork.net. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- "Ruben Blades says Fear the Walking Dead deals with 'very tough and important questions'". Ew.com. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- "Rubén Blades Named NYU Steinhardt Dean's Inaugural Scholar-in-Residence". Nyu.edu.
- Flores, Griselda (June 2, 2021). "Ruben Blades Named 2021 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year". Billboard. Archived from the original on June 2, 2021. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
- "Rubén Blades | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
- "Rubén Blades". The Recording Academy. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
- "2003 Latin Grammys winners and the tribute to salsa queen". Top40-Charts.com. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- "Calle 13 Sweeps 2009 Latin Grammys". BMI.com. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- "THE LATIN ACADEMY OF RECORDING ARTS & SCIENCES, INC. FINAL NOMINATIONS" (PDF). Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 4, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Cobo, Leila (September 24, 2014). "Calle 13 Lead Latin Grammy Nominations". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media.
- "La lista completa de nominados a los Latin Grammy 2015" (in Spanish). infobae. September 23, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
- "18th Latin Grammy Awards Nominations" (PDF). latingrammy.com. 26 September 2017.
- "19th Latin Grammy Awards Nominations" (PDF). latingrammy.com. 21 September 2018.
- Ryan, Patrick. "Latin Grammys: Camila Cabello, Alejandro Sanz, Rosalía, Luis Fonsi score 2019 nominations". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
- Huston, Marysabel. "Latin Grammy: J Balvin lidera la lista de nominaciones con 13, le sigue Bad Bunny con 9". CNN (in Spanish). Retrieved 2020-09-29.
- Angermiller, Michelle Amabile (June 2, 2021). "Rubén Blades Named 2021 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year". Variety. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
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