Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Lupe Victoria Yoli Raymond, 23 December 1939, Santiago de Cuba, Oriente Province, Cuba; d 28 February 1992, Bronx, NYC) Popular Latin singer and composer, aka La Yi Yi Yi, noted for her frenetic and scandalous performances; described as 'Sexual Goddess of Afro-Hispanic Music' and regarded by some as a camp icon. From a poor family, she played truant to enter a radio singing contest and won first prize; she completed teacher training at her father's insistence and worked as a teacher in Havana, meanwhile performing with the Trio Los Tropicales at the El Roco night club, but was expelled from the group for wild behaviour.
She made her successful solo debut at Havana's La Red nightclub '59; recorded hit LPs Con El Diablo En El Cuerpo and La Lupe Is Back on Discuba, Es Lupe on Kristal; however her tempestuous stage act mixed with rock'n'roll sung in Spanish so outraged the Castro government that she left Cuba early '62, first to Mexico, then to NYC; where Mongo Santamaria helped revive her career with Mongo Introduces La Lupe '63 (reissued as Mongo y La Lupe '73) on Fantasy, denoting her switch to typical Latin music. She also featured on Mongo's top ten hit 'Watermelon Man' '63 on Battle. Signed with Tico Records; coupled with Tito Puente's big band starting with gold disc La Excitante Lupe Canta Con El Maestro Tito Puente/Tito Puente Swings, The Exciting Lupe Sings '65, followed by Tú y Yo/You 'N' Me '65, Homenaje A Rafael Hernández c.1966 and The King and I/El Rey y Yo '67; NYC Latin press named her Singer of the Year '65 and '66. Her remaining 13 LPs on Tico (plus one on Roulette) included several with other Latin luminaries: They Call Me La Lupe/A Mi Me Llaman La Lupe '66 was produced by Al Santiago, arranged and conducted by Chico O'Farrill; La Lupe Es La Reina/La Lupe The Queen '69 with one side arranged and conducted by Héctor Rivera; Un Encuentro Con La Lupe '74 with Puerto Rican composer C. Curet Alonso.
Scandals returned to dog her career, including being banned from Puerto Rican TV for tearing off her clothing during a live broadcast; her already rocky career is thought to have sustained a crucial setback in the mid-1970s when Jerry Masucci (whose Fania empire had absorbed Tico) gave preference to progressing the career of another Tico signee, Celia Cruz. In spite of issuing three LPs '77-80, including La Pareja '78 with Puente, her career continued to dwindle until her retirement from performing in the early 1980s. She sank into poverty due to huge contributions to the Santeria religion and enormous bills for her husband's mental health treatment; after frequent periods of homelessness, she was paralysed by a domestic accident; cured by an Evangelical preacher, she committed the rest of her life to religion until a fatal heart attack. Various compilations of Tico material included Lo Mejor de La Lupe '74 (reissued '90s), Apasionada '78 (compiled by Al Santiago; reissued '92), Nostalgias '92, The Best '93.