Here are brief profiles of the inaugural inductees and special award recipients of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, which will hold its gala in Miami Beach on April 23, the opening night of the Billboard Latin Music Conference.
JOSE ANGEL “FERRUSQUILLA” ESPINOZA
There are few revered Latin songwriters who also have had standout acting careers, but Espinoza-better–known by his nickname “Ferrusquilla”–was already a movie star in his native Mexico in 1957 when he composed his first song, “A Los Amigos Que Tengo.” Shortly thereafter, “Echame a Mi la Culpa,” Espinoza’s melancholy tale about a tortured love affair, established the Sinaloa-born actor as a successful composer. He eventually co-wrote four songs with Mexican songwriting giant Jose Alfredo Jiminez. In 1976, “Culpa” became a huge hit in Spain, when noted British singer/songwriter Albert Hammond re-ignited the song’s popularity there with a midtempo pop version that earned Hammond a Spanish artist of the year award, which Espinoza presented to him. Espinoza, now 93, was not a one-hit wonder, however. Among his other nuggets are “Carino Nuevo” and “La Ley del Monte.”
Supremely talented in both Spanish and English, Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Feliciano, who was born blind, has cut a broad musical swath for nearly 50 years. Most English-speaking fans know him for his jazzy bolero take of the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” the ubiquitous holiday anthem “Feliz Navidad” and George Benson’s spunky version of his tuneful instrumental “Affirmation.” But Feliciano also attracted a huge following among Spanish-language fans in the 1980s with self-penned, lovestruck evergreens “¿Por Que Te Tengo Que Olvidar?,” “Me Enamore” and “Por Ella,” the latter of which was a duet smash with Mexican balladeer Jose Jose. In fact, five of Feliciano’s seven Grammy Awards won between 1969 and 2009 were in Latin music categories. His 2008 album, “Senor Bolero,” won both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy Award. In 2011, Feliciano, 67, was given a lifetime achievement award at the Latin Grammys ceremony.
While recuperating in a hospital from an auto accident, Iglesias received a guitar from a nurse to help pass the time, and he began to write songs. The rest is not only history, but history-making, as the suave, handsome native of Madrid shattered worldwide records for album sales–300 million and counting, according to his website. A tireless performer, the 70-year-old song stylist with the feathery-light baritone has been seen in concert by countless millions around the globe. Iglesias kicked off his career in 1968 with the tune “La Vida Sigue Igual,” which won a songwriters’ festival in Spain. A few years later, he hit the jackpot as both a songwriter and recording artist with “Un Canto a Galicia,” which became a major hit throughout Europe. By the early ’80s, Iglesias was a household name around the world, more as a recording artist and stage performer than a songwriter, though. But Iglesias always valued a good song and a good writer–one of his favorites is co-inductee Manuel Alejandro.
Following in the accomplished footsteps of his father, German Alvarez Beigbeder, Alejandro has authored more than 500 songs, many of which have become oft-recorded standards over the past 50 years. In the 1960s, Alejandro composed a string of smash singles for Spanish star Raphael, including “Yo Soy Aquel,” “Cierro Mis Ojos” and “Hablemos del Amor.” In the ’80s, Alejandro wrote and produced hit albums for Mexican idols Emmanuel and Jose Jose. In 1988, he wrote and produced the blockbuster album for his superstar compadre Julio Iglesias titled “Un Hombre Solo,” which won a Grammy for best Latin pop album. Alejandro also wrote “Manuela,” another hit single that helped boost Iglesias’ recording career. Twenty years later, at age 75, Alejandro wrote and produced Mexican star Luis Miguel’s best-selling album “Complices.” Other nuggets include “Dueno de Nada,” “Procuro Olvidarte” and “Soy Rebelde.”
Manzanero towers over the Spanish-speaking songwriting world as a composer of dozens of vintage, slow-dancing love songs that have traversed musical, generational and linguistic boundaries. Among Manzanero’s many classics are “No SÃ© TÃº,” “Contigo AprendÃ,” “Esta Tarde Vi Llover,” “Adoro,” “Por Debajo de la Mesa” and “Somos Novios,” the latter of which became a worldwide smash in 1970 for Perry Como under the title “It’s Impossible.” More recently, Andrea Bocelli and Christina Aguilera recorded “Somos Novios” for Bocelli’s 2006 album Amore. Besides penning one evergreen hit after another, this 77-year-old native of Mexico has recorded more than 30 albums and performed throughout Latin America and the United States. Fittingly, Manzanero is the current president of SACM, Mexico’s preeminent authors and composers society. Manzanero has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Recording Academy, as well as a Latin Grammy.
CONCHA VALDES MIRANDA
“El Que Mas Te Ha Querido” tops a long list of fiery odes to the heart penned by this effervescent, Havana-born composer, affectionately known as Concha. Other passion-laden fan favorites include “Tapame Contigo,” “El Viaje,” “Hazmelo Otra Vez,” “Como Es Posible,” “Orgasmo” and “Corino Mio.” “El Que Mas Te Ha Querido,” recorded by Dyango, was included on the Spanish-torch singer’s 1990 album “Suspiros,” which was nominated for a Grammy. Concha composed numerous songs for Dyango, as well as other stars from Spain and Latin America, such as Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, Trio los Panchos, Lucia Mendez, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Moncho, Tito Rodriguez, Johnny Ventura, Maria Martha Serra Lima, Floria Marquez and Antonietta. Apart from composing songs for her acclaimed friends, Concha, who will turn 85 in July, recorded four albums of her own and wrote two books of poetry.
ROBERTO CANTORAL (POSTHUMOUS)
The lone posthumous inductee to the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, Cantoral exerted enormous influence on the Spanish-language music world, both as a composer and as the long-time president of SACM, Mexico’s powerful authors and composers society, through which he vigorously defended intellectual rights. Each of Cantoral’s three biggest hits–“El Reloj,” “La Barca” and “El Preso No. 9”–have been recorded more than 1,000 times around the world in numerous languages, according to the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. Indeed, Cantoral cultivated his love for composing by participating in prominent song festivals, from Mexico City to Tokyo and all points in between. He also penned many hit telenovela theme songs, including “El Derecho de Nacer,” “Paloma,” “Pacto de Amor” and “Quiereme Siempre.” In 2009, Cantoral was given the Trustees Award from the Latin Recording Academy. One year later, he died of a heart attack at age 80.
PREMIO LEYENDA EN VIDA (THE LIVING LEGEND AWARD): ANDY GARCIA
While better known as a prominent actor, producer and director, Garcia has vigorously employed his cinematic gifts to expose a dazzling array of music whose roots originated in his native Cuba. Through his production company CineSon, Garcia directed the music documentary “Cachao…Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos,” which detailed the life of mambo co-creator Israel “Cachao” Lopez. A skillful percussionist, Garcia, 57, teamed with Lopez on four CineSon albums, garnering a pair of Grammy Awards. In 2000, Garcia portrayed acclaimed Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval in the Emmy Award-nominated HBO biopic “For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story.” Garcia also co-executive-produced the movie, as well as co-produced the soundtrack. The Sandoval-composed film score won an Emmy. In 2005, Garcia made his feature film directorial bow with “The Lost City,” a movie about 1950s Cuba for which Garcia also composed the score and produced the soundtrack.
PREMIO LEGADO (LEGACY AWARD): OLGA GUILLOT
Exploring every emotional nuance of a song as if it were her last, Guillot, the renowned “queen of the bolero,” set the bar high in the 1950s for generations of aspiring singers who wanted to apply their theatrical vocal stylings to the seductive, percussive ballad genre bolero. “Mienteme” became a hit in 1954 that led to a parade of timeless tracks for the husky-voiced songstress, including “Tu Me Acostumbraste,” “La Gloria Eres Tu” and “Contigo en la Distancia.” Guillot ended up singing with Edith Piaf and Sarah Vaughan while tutoring Nat King Cole while he recorded an album in Spanish. In 1964, Guillot became the first Latin singer to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 2007, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Recording Academy. Born in Santiago de Cuba, Guillot eventually traveled back and forth to Mexico and Miami Beach, where she died in 2010 at the age of 87.
PREMIO CONQUISTADOR (CONQUEROR AWARD): ROBI DRACO ROSA
Rosa’s 25-year musical sojourn has taken him from giddy pop stardom as a member of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo to rock-solid renown as a clever, 43-year-old singer/songwriter who has co-authored a multitude of hit songs, many of which were recorded by his former Menudo bandmate Ricky Martin. Rosa alternated co-writing and co-producing Martin chart smashes such as “Maria,” “La Copa de la Vida” and “Livin’ la Vida Loca” with writing and recording his own alt-rock albums “Frio” and “Vagabundo.” Apart from Martin, Rosa also produced Ednita Nazario’s 1999 album “Corazon,” which yielded the hit single “Mas Grande Que Grande.” He also wrote and produced three songs for Julio Iglesias’ 2000 album “Noche de Cuatro Lunas.” Rosa’s latest album, “Vida,” contains 16 duets of songs he previously composed that were recorded with a host of superstars including Martin, Shakira, Mana and Romeo Santos.
PREMIO LA MUSA ELENA CASALS (ELENA CASALS MUSE AWARD): NATALIA JIMENEZ
Born to a Spanish father and a Portuguese mother, Jimenez, a statuesque siren from Madrid, used her rangy, stentorian voice to power through an assemblage of anthemic hits as lead singer of La 5a Estacion, a pop/rock outfit now on hiatus. Equally adept at romantic power ballads (“Algo Mas,” “Me Muero”) and more uptempo confessional fare (“Que Te Queria,” “El Sol No Regresa”), Jimenez helped La 5a Estacion win both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy award. Not only a dazzling recording artist, Jimenez is also a capable songwriter who wrote one hit, “Algo Mas,” and co-wrote another, “Me Muero,” with bandmate Ãngel Reyero. Jimenez’s vocal gifts have drawn attention from superstars Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony, both of whom have recorded with her. After a successful 10-year run with La 5a Estacion, Jimenez stepped out on her own two years ago with her self-titled debut. Now 31, she is currently working on her sophomore set, due this summer.
PREMIO TRIUNFADOR (STARLIGHT AWARD): PRINCE ROYCE
Three years ago, Geoffrey Royce Rojas was an unknown singer/songwriter/producer who dropped his self-titled disc under the name Prince Royce. Now, the Bronx-born heartthrob has authored two chart-topping bachata nuggets, “Corazon Sin Cara” and “Las Cosas Pequenas.” In addition, Royce’s bilingual cover of “Stand by Me” reached No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. At the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards, Royce performed “Stand by Me’ with Ben E. King, who originally recorded the gospel-based track in 1961. Royce recently signed a record deal with Sony Music to release Spanish-language albums via Sony Music Latin and English-language discs through RCA. Royce, who will turn 24 in May, was inspired to record and expand the awareness of bachata after spending summers with his grandparents in the Dominican Republic, where the percussive, midtempo genre originated in the early 20th century.
PREMIOS PIONERO DESI ARNAZ (DESI ARNAZ PIONEER AWARD): NAT “KING” COLE
Cole began his fabled music career as a pianist and bandleader of a jazz trio in Chicago before eventually developing into a smooth-voiced pop superstar in Los Angeles, where he cut many long-standing hits, including “Nature Boy,” “Mona Lisa” and “Unforgettable.” A frequent concert performer throughout Latin America, Cole went to Havana in 1958 to record “Cole Espanol.” Cole’s maiden Spanish disc sold so well in Latin America and the United States that he traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the following year to cut his follow-up, “A Mis Amigos,” which contained several Portuguese-language songs. In 1962, he recorded his final Spanish-language album, “More Cole Espanol,” in Mexico City. Cole was the first American vocal titan to cut an entire disc in Spanish. His ardent Latino fanacticos adored his charming, American-accented Spanish renditions of international classics “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” “Solamente una Vez” and “Perfidia.” Cole was 45 when he died in 1965.
PREMIO LA VOZ DE LA MUSA (THE MUSE VOICE AWARD):
Tanon, known to her fervid fans as “Mujer de Fuego” (Woman of Fire), is a sultry siren from Puerto Rico who has always delivered an incendiary performance, be it on stage or in the recording studio. Tanon’s stylistic heat is grounded in an elastic, thunderous mezzo that she has smartly utilized to power through frenetic merengue numbers, as well as aching pop ballads. Her unmistakable range and sparkling versatility have graced many genres, including merengue (“Es Mentiroso”), pop (“Desilusoname”), grupero (“¡Basta Ya!”), reggaeton (“Bandolero”) and world music (“Ah Ya Albi”). Winner of two Grammys and three Latin Grammys, Tanon, 46, is a riveting performer who has toured the United States, Latin American and Europe. Fittingly, her first Grammy was for her 1999 live disc “Olga Viva, Viva Olga.”
PREMIO EDITORES (PUBLISHERS AWARD): RALPH S. PEER
Born in Independence, Mo., Peer traveled from his small Midwestern town throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America as a music visionary who brought indigenous sounds to mainstream music markets. In the 1930s and ’40s, Peer’s publishing company, Southern Music, single-handedly introduced most of the now-familiar Spanish-language standards to English-speaking music enthusiasts, such as “Brazil,” “Frenesi,” “Green Eyes,” “Perfidia” and “Besame Mucho,” the latter being this year’s much-deserved honoree in La Cancion de Todos Los Tiempos (Towering Song) category. Peer first realized the potential of Latin music in 1928 during a trip to Mexico City, where he discovered Mexican composing giant Agustin Lara. Later, after hearing a local band in San Antonio playing “The Peanut Vendor,” which was written by Cuban composer Moises Simons, Peer opened offices in Havana and Mexico City. Peer died in 1960 at the age of 67. His son, Ralph Peer II, carries on his legacy as chairman/CEO of the publishing company peermusic.
LA CANCIÃ?N DE TODOS LOS TIEMPOS (THE TOWERING SONG):
“BESAME MUCHO,” CONSUELO VELAZQUEZ
Velazquez said she had never been kissed when the talented songsmith from Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco, wrote one of the most recorded songs ever, “Besame Mucho” (Kiss Me Much). A melancholy lament about a possible last romantic encounter, “Besame Mucho” has been translated into many languages and recorded in virtually every musical genre. A wartime chart-topper for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in 1944, “Besame Mucho” became a top five R&B hit for the New York vocal group the Ray-O-Vacs. Since then, a pantheon of music legends have cut various versions, including the Beatles, Luis Miguel, Dean Martin, Lucho Gatica, Wes Montgomery, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Buble and Joao Gilberto. The plaintive melody of “Besame Mucho” was based on an aria, “Quejas, O la Mala y el Ruisenor,” from the 1916 opera “Goyescas” by Enrique Granados, a prominent Spanish composer whom Velazquez noted was an influence on her own songwriting.
PREMIO HYMNO NACIONAL (NATIONAL ANTHEM TRIBUTE) 2O13: MEXICO, FRANCISCO GONZALEZ BOCANEGRA AND JAIME NUNO
In 1853, Mexican poet Bocanegra was engaged to be married when Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna announced a contest to compose the lyrics for the country’s national anthem. Legend has it that Bocanegra did not want to participate, but when his fianance threatened to lock him in a room at her home until he wrote something, Bocanegra, who up to that point mainly penned love poems, relented. After four hours of effort, he produced the verses about a heroic homeland that would always defend its honor. Simultaneous to the lyric competition was a music contest which was won by Nuno, a Spanish military bandleader whom Santa Anna had previously met in Cuba. Thus, Bocanegra’s words and Nuno’s music became the “Mexican National Anthem,” also known by the anthem’s first verse, “Mexicans, At the Cry of War.” While it had been accepted informally since 1854, the anthem was not officially adopted until 1943.