Orlando Puerta, a dance music promotions and marketing veteran known for his work with legends including Cher and Madonna, died from an upper respiratory infection at the age of 55. It is currently unknown whether the infection was caused by COVID-19, but a test is forthcoming.
According to a statement released Monday (April 7) by his company Citrusonic, Puerta died in a Los Angeles hospital “after a short but severe battle with upper respiratory infection. At this time we are awaiting further details and the results of a COVID-19 test performed prior to his passing.” Read the complete statement below.
Puerta was a lifelong dance music champion, hosting underground club night throughout Los Angeles in the early 1990s, as the city was becoming a nexus of the burgeoning U.S. scene. His events — which included Miss Kitty’s Candyland, Sunday School, Dish, Cha Cha Groove and more — helped break then up-and-coming talent including Mark Farina and Doc Martin.
After a stint working in marketing and promotions for independent films, Puerta joined the marketing team at Warner Brothers Records in 1997. At Warner, he worked on campaigns for marquee artists including Madonna, Bette Midler, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Depeche Mode, New Order, Orgy, Static X, Michael Buble and Seal. One of the biggest successes of his career came through his work on the campaign for Cher’s “Believe,” a global smash that hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999.
“He was so beloved within the industry and with these artists,” says Billboard‘s consumer editorial director Ian Drew, a longtime friend of Puerta’s. “He was always part of the team, someone they really loved and trusted and someone who was there through pivotal moments of their career. He truly loved them and gave everything to these projects and artists. His passion was just a mountain.”
In 2001, Puerta was promoted to Warner’s director of dance & lifestyle marketing. In this role, he had a particularly fruitful working relationship with Madonna, for whom he worked on albums including Music, Confessions on a Dancefloor, Hard Candy and Rebel Heart, helping push myriad songs and remixes to chart-topping positions around the globe. Puerta continued working with Madonna even after leaving Warner Brothers in 2009 to start his own promotions company, Citrusonic.
“One of a kind. I have only the most joyful memories of Orlando,” says Liz Rosenberg, Cher’s longtime publicist who worked with Puerta during her long tenure at Warner Brothers and also served as Madonna’s publicist for decades. “No one I’d rather hang out with on or off the dance floor. A genius at what he did and the sweetest most beloved guy in the music business. Loved and adored by all. I’m honored to have known him.”
Most recently, Puerta worked on the marketing for Madonna’s 2019 album, Madame X, helping her achieve a landmark 50th No. 1 single on Billboard’ Dance/Club Songs chart with “I Don’t Seek I Find.” (“THANK YOU DJS!!!” he wrote on Instagram in celebration of the milestone.) Puerta also worked on promotion for Tracy Young’s remix of Madonna’s “I Rise,” which won a 2020 Grammy for best remixed recording.
“One of his favorite things was listening to the remixes as they were delivered by the DJs,” says Maria Marquez, who was Puerta’s assistant at Citrusonic for the last decade. “He touched the lives of many artists, producers and remixers.”
Puerta’s most recent success came via the Black Eyes Peas and J Balvin’s single “Ritmo (Bad Boys for Life)” which is currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Other recent clients include Laverne Cox, MK, U2 and Jennifer Hudson. Citrononic Puerta is being remembered throughout the music industry for his warmth, supportiveness, vision, sense of humor and big heart.
“Maybe some good kind souls are just too good and kind for this cold heartless world,” tweeted Diane Warren. “Rest in Power my dear sweet friend Orlando.”
Maybe some good kind souls are just too good and kind for this cold heartless world. Rest in Power my dear sweet friend Orlando💔
— Diane Warren (@Diane_Warren) April 6, 2020
It is with great sadness that we tearfully announce the passing of our founder, leader and dear friend Orlando Puerta.
Orlando passed peacefully in hospital Saturday morning at 3:40 AM after a short but severe battle with upper respiratory infection. At this time we are awaiting further details and the results of a COVID-19 test performed prior to his passing.
We understand that Orlando has touched us all in different but similar ways and we grieve with you. We are saddened that due to quarantine efforts in our region we will not be able to conduct a funeral or burial at this time. We will keep you informed of updates.
Orlando was a champion of Dance Music, of free thought and a lover of life, music and animals. We will continue his legacy at Citrusonic by carrying forward his initiatives for all of our beloved clients, dj’s, musicians, remixers and fans. Likewise, we have established a donation link where friends and family can benefit animals in leu of flowers and cards. We appreciate you.
Anyone who would like to discuss Citrusonic business matters is encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our leadership is intact, our business is strong, and we will carry on in memory of Orlando’s epic multi-decade career in Music. More to follow.
With love and prayer, Citrusonic