Celia Cruz: A life of music, color, and 'azucar'

The Google doodle today honors Cuban singer Celia Cruz, who racked up an impressive list of accolades in her long career. 

Google
Celia Cruz, the honoree of today's Google doodle, was born in 1925 in Havana.

The Google homepage today is dominated by an illustration of Celia Cruz, the Cuban singer the New York Times once dubbed a "petite powerhouse" with a "tough, raspy voice that could ride the percussive attack of a rumba." Mr. Cruz was born in 1925, in a rough neighborhood of Havana, Cuba; she began making music in the late 1940s, when she was still in her early twenties. 

By the time of her death, in 2003, she had recorded an estimated 70 albums. In some ways, her substantial musical legacy can be measured by the accolades and honors that piled up in her wake. Among them are a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP; a string of Grammy and Latin Grammy awards (and even more nominations); and a citation, in 2005, from the Guinness Book of World Records for the "Longest Working Career as Salsa Artist." 

The United States Postal Service gave her a commemorative postage stamp. Last year, the National Museum of American History, in Washington, gave her a portrait. 

"As a rare female member of a band, she was a musical chameleon, able to master many different genres of Afro-Caribbean songs," reps for the museum wrote at the time. "Over the course of a career that spanned six decades and took her from humble beginnings in Cuba to a world-renowned artist, Cruz became the undisputed 'Queen of Latin Music.' Combining a piercing and powerful voice with a larger-than-life personality and stage costumes, she was one of the few women to succeed in the male-dominated world of Salsa music." 

And in 2003, the year she died, Cruz was the subject of a documentary with the punctuation-heavy title of "Celia Cruz: An Extraordinary Woman... Con Azucar!" (Those last two words, Cruz's famous catch phrase, translate from Spanish as "with sugar.") 

But the most lasting proof of Cruz's effect on the world of music can be found in the appreciations of her fellow artists. 

''I was listening to the radio in Cuba the first time I heard Celia's voice,'' salsa percussionist Tito Puente told the NYTimes in 1987. ''I couldn't believe the voice. It was so powerful and energetic. I swore it was a man, I'd never heard a woman sing like that.''

Indeed, few could forget Cruz's voice, which has been described by the voice instructor and former opera singer Charles Williams as "warm," with "the right combination of coffee and milk, a dark/light sound."

Still, in a press release this week, Omer Pardillo-Cid, the executor of the Celia Cruz Estate, said that despite all the awards Cruz racked up her lifetime, "this one by Google is certainly one of the most important and far-reaching. The creation of her very own Google Doodle, an honor bestowed on a select few who have made special contributions to mankind, is a testament of her significance, not just musically, but culturally," he added.

"She would have loved it!" 

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