Cuban-born pianist Bebo Valdes is to receive the honorary Latin music award at the 14th Premios de la Musica gala to be held in Madrid on March 4, the managing committee of the Spanish Academy of Music Arts and Sciences announced.
Valdes, 92, has traveled full circle since his glory days in Cuba until the 1959 Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Soon after the revolution, Valdes left his wife and children in Cuba, and traveled to Mexico and the United States before settling in Stockholm, Sweden, where he spent more than 30 years as a virtual unknown, occasionally playing in hotel piano bars.
He began recording again in 1994 at the age of 76 after being "rediscovered" by old friend and fellow Cuban musician, Paquito D'Rivera. Spaniard Fernando Trueba, the film director and Latin music expert, made films with Valdes playing key roles, such as "Calle 54" (2000) and "Bebo De Cuba" (2005).
Valdes's biggest global hit was "Lagrimas Negras" (2004), recorded with Spanish gypsy flamenco singer Diego el Cigala.
The Academy is formed by collecting society SGAE and artists association AiE, who organize the Spanish-language-only Premios each year.
Valdes was born the grandson of slaves in Havana province in 1918. He began studying piano at seven, and in his late teens he went to Havana capital to study in a conservatory. In 1948 he entered the legendary Tropicana music club, which celebrated its 70th anniversary at the end of December. Valdes now lives on the Costa del Sol south coast of Spain.
His Cuban resident son Chuchu has won more Grammy awards than Bebo. The combined Grammys won by both is in double figures.