BMI honored its most-performed Latin songwriters and publishers of the year at its 22nd annual Latin Music Awards on March 31 at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, with Horacio Palencia taking home songwriter of the year for a stunning fourth time and Universal Music Publishing Group winning publisher of the year. BMI’s Song of the year was chart-topping regional Mexican hit “El Ruido de tus zapatos,” written by singer/songwriter Espinoza Paz and published by Editora Arpa Musical/Ferca Global Publishing.
The highlight of the evening, however, was the homage to producer/composer Sergio George, who received BMI’s President’s Award for his career as one of Latin music’s most influential and successful pioneers. He received the award from his longtime friend Marc Anthony.
“You were my wheels. You were my car,” said an emotional Anthony, recalling how George produced his first-ever salsa album at a time when he was venturing into freestyle music.
“I was in the studio with this man seriously not knowing what to do. What Sergio always told me was ‘disfrútalo’ (enjoy it). You never know what’s gonna come out. The sound that came out struck a chord and up until then I didn’t know how to do that. Sergio has been my rock. After all these years of not recording salsa, who do I call? I call Sergio. He finishes my sentences.”
George, of course, not only produced Anthony’s early hits, but also produced his 2013 mega-hit “Vivir Mi Vida,” which was the longest-running song of that year at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart.
“You have to know this,” Anthony told the audience, explaining how the two work in the studio. “We sit [in the studio] with no charts, no nothing. The sheer genius of Sergio is he’s always open. And I’m so honored to have witnessed this dialogue with a fellow musician […] You’re my guy, you’re my fucking guy. I will be your wing man whenever you need me. Count on me.”
George, who has won the Latin Grammys producer of the year award four times, more than anyone else, has produced a legion of salsa stars through the years in addition to launching Top Stop Music, his own label (where Prince Royce and Leslie Grace got their start) and most recently assembling an all-star cast of salsa stars he called “The Salsa Giants.”
“My career started when Tito Puente hired me to play keyboards for his band and fired me nine months later,” George said with a laugh. The job loss led George to move to Colombia and explore different ways of making music. Years later, Puente would rehire him.
“What I’m saying is, when one door closes, another opens,” he added, thanking Puente’s “classiness” and support through the years, in addition to that of a string of names, including BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill, BMI VP Latin Music Delia Orjuela and, of course, Anthony, “my brother from another mother.”
Then George took the stage with his big band and accompanied Cuban singer Laritza Bacallao (who he’s starting working with) in a rendition of “Si te contara.”
But the highlight, no doubt, was a salsa medley that featured one great singer after another: Charlie Aponte, Oscar D’Leon and Jose Alberto “El Canario.” At the end, Anthony and another BMI winner of the evening — Carlos Vives — couldn’t resist and went onstage to dance along.