A new Google Doodle honors Celia Cruz, known as the “Queen of Salsa.” Some websites report that she would have been 88 today, but TIME wrote ”she was coy about her exact birth year” in the milestone that the magazine published after she died of a brain tumor in 2003 at 77 (even Encyclopedia Britannica lists a question mark after her birth year: “October 21, 1929?”).
Celia Cruz poses with her Best Salsa Album award for ‘La Negra Tiene Tumbao’ backstage during the 3rd Annual Latin Grammy Awards at the Kodak Theatre, Sep. 18, 2002
The Cuban-American singer was born and raised in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States in 1959, just as Fidel Castro was sworn into power, and became a U.S. citizen in 1961. “Cruz’s timeless appeal is spanning generations,” TIME wrote in a 1988 profile of the Latin musicians who were influencing pop music at the time. As TIME wrote in 2003, Cruz “once said ‘Salsa is … all the Cuban rhythms under one name.’ You could say the same about Cruz.”
She sang Afro-Cuban music and performed with the genre’s big stars like Johnny Pacheco’s band and Tito Puente in the movie The Mambo Kings (1992) and inspired many more like Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, and Marc Antony. Cruz earned several Grammys and Latin Grammys for her salsa and tropical albums, even star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The wigs, shoes with aluminum heels and costumes she donned on stage were recognized as works of art when they were displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History as part of a 2005 retrospective exhibit of her six-decade career.
As TIME described her style, “Her contralto voice was like the waters that separate Miami and Havana–inviting, sun-kissed, capable of rising up in a storm.”