Rubén Blades [1948- ]
Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna, born in Panama City, is one of the most famous poets and singers of salsa music.
Raised in a musical home, he studied law and economics at the Universidad Nacional de Panamá, but still had the music bug. In hopes of breaking into the music business, Blades took a job in the mailroom of the up-and-coming FANIA record label in New York in the late 1960s and got his break when Ray Barretto invited him to fill in for one of his singers who had left.
Blades’ early singing style was strongly influenced by Cheo Feliciano, but he eventually developed his own voice. His 1978 album with Willie Colón, Siembra, became one of the best-selling Latin music albums of all time, featuring songs such as Siembra, Plástico, and Pedro Navaja that dealt with love, struggle and hope. It spoke to the experiences of people all over Latin America and the Caribbean.
Blades went on to record more than 50 albums of thought-provoking and danceable music, collaborating with artists in a variety of genres and countries and winning nine Grammy Awards. As an actor he also appeared in over 50 films, including Crossover Dreams (1985), and The Milagro Beanfield War (1988).
Trading on his stature as an activist artist, Blades ran for President of Panama in 1994, receiving 18% of the vote. He would become the Minister of Tourism in Panama under President Torrijos in 2004.