Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Gloria Fajardo,1 Sep. '57, Havana) Singer, probably the most successful in Spanish- speaking markets, also with great crossover success. Her father was a bodyguard to the Cuban dictator Batista and she sang military songs at age two; the family moved to Miami c'59. Her father, a big handsome man, survived being captured at the Bay of Pigs, went to Vietnam where he was sprayed with Agent Orange and ended up in a wheelchair in his thirties; the family used newspapers for bedsheets. Gloria was studying psychology at U of Miami and working as a Spanish and French translator at Miami airport when she met her first and only boyfriend Emilio Estefan (b 4 March '53, Havana; arrived in Miami c'67 by way of Spain), who was playing accordion at weddings, in restaurants etc initially in a trio as the Miami Latin Boys. He talked her into singing with the band weekends (the first time she ever disobeyed her mother); they changed the name to Miami Sound Machine, and she injected a ballad element into his salsa. First album was Renacer '76 on local Audio Latino label, followed by five more by '83 for Discos CBS International; meanwhile they had married and she obtained her degree '78. Drummer Enrique Garcia wrote their first English-language release 'Dr Beat' '84, became hit in the UK; they appeared on Top Of The Pops and Columbia USA issued Eyes Of Innocence '84 but Primitive Love '85 was the first to reach the Billboard pop chart. Let It Loose '87 (called Anything For You '88 in the UK, after the no. 1 USA hit) saw a change in billing to Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine; her first proper solo Cuts Both Ways '89, pulsating pop-Latin alternating with smoochy ballads, had backing credited to the Miami Sound Machine; both albums went top ten USA. In early '88 she also sang opposite Placido Domingo in a musical about Goya, playing the Duchess of Alba.

In March '90 their tour bus was hit by another vehicle on a snowy highway in the Pocono Mountains; both Emilio and their son were injured but Gloria suffered a broken back: world-famous orthopaedic surgeon Dr Michael Neuwirth operated for four hours and she was back on stage within a year. Meanwhile Exitos De Gloria Estefan '90 was a compilation of Spanish-language versions of mostly ballad hits (as Simon Frith has pointed out, the music makes more sense in Spanish, for the same reasons Verdi makes more sense in Italian), and Into The Light '91 reached the top five in the USA, with six songs co- written by backing singer Jon Secada (b Cuba, master's degree in music at U of Miami); Gloria returned the favours on his top 15 eponymous debut album '92. They bought the Miami art deco landmark Cardozo Hotel from Chris Blackwell '92; Mi Tierra '93 was another Spanish collection with guests like Tito Puente, Cachao, Arturo Sandoval; Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me '94 was a top ten album of covers. Gloria and Emilio have donated a lot of time to good causes; for example she sang on Till Their Eyes Shine (The Lullaby Album) '92 for Institute for Intercultural Understanding, and when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida '92 they turned their Miami offices into a distribution centre for relief goods and co-organized an all-star benefit at a Miami stadium that raised nearly $1.5m. She is one of the best-loved people in the music business, and her recovery from the accident was a great relief. Secada's second album was Heart, Soul And A Voice '94; Gloria was invited to sing on Frank Sinatra's Duets album '93 and Secada sang on Duets II '94. Gloria's further albums were Abriendo Puertas ('Open Doors') '95 and Destiny '96, with hit 'Reach'.