¡Viva Celia Cruz! The late “Queen of Salsa” continues to reign as she did in life; the iconic singer has been honored with a place on the Walk of Legends at New York’s Apollo Theater.
Saturday, March 22 marked the 50th anniversary of the legend’s appearance on the stage of the iconic New York theater, according to Fox New Latino.
Fellow Cuban singer Lucrecia and Dominican salsa musician Jose Alberto, known as “El canario,” took the stage to honor Cruz with her most famous songs.
In addition to highlighting the memorable performance from Cruz, who made her debut on March 22, 1964, (sharing the stage with Cuban musician Machito and Joe Cuba, a Puerto Rican musician) the Harlem theater also made history by marking its the 80th anniversary.
Born Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso to a working-class family in Havana in 1925, Cruz began singing as a child, an interest later fostered by her aunt, who introduced her to the world of Cuba’s nightclubs, according to Billboard. A student of Cuba’s Conservatory of Music, Cruz’s career took off in 1950 when she joined La Sonora Matancera, one of Cuba’s most prominent dance orchestras.
The singer embarked on a tour with La Sonora Matancera in 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, and never returned to her “Cubita Linda.” Sadly, when her father passed away, the Cuban government refused to let her return to the island to pay her final respects.
However, she was embraced by the United States and evolved into an international icon. Dubbed, “The Queen of Salsa,” Cruz launched a solo career with percussionist Tito Puente, and performed with the Fania All Stars in the 1970s. She became known for her enthusiastic stage presence and signature outbursts of “azúcar!” as well as her flair for the dramatic with brightly colored dresses and wigs.
She continued to take the stage well into her seventies, including the award-winning “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” in 2001. By the time of her death at 77 (from cancer) two years later, she had raked in 10 Grammys, honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami, and a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award. Cruz, who died in her home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is buried in a mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. She has also been remembered with a postage stamp and honored with a National Endowment for the Arts and a Smithsonian Museum exhibit.
Last year, a Google-Doodle of Cruz appeared on the home page showing the late Cuban singer, who would have turned 88 years old, with multi-colored hair wearing a sweeping blue gown – a classic vision like electric blue wigs, electrified audiences worldwide.