RUBEN BLADES Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Ruben Blades Bellido de Luna                                                             
Born: 16 July 1948 Panama City, Panama                                                         
Ruben Blades Bellido de Luna (born July 16, 1948) is a Panamanian salsa singer,                 
songwriter, lawyer, actor, Latin jazz musician, and politician, performing                     
musically most often in the Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz genres. As songwriter,                   
Blades brought the lyrical sophistication of Central American nueva cancion and                 
Cuban nueva trova as well as experimental tempos and political inspired                         
Nuyorican salsa to his music, creating thinking persons' (salsa) dance music.                   
Blades has composed dozens of musical hits, the most famous of which is "Pedro                 
Navaja," a song about a neighborhood thug whose day to die has come, inspired by               
"Mack the Knife." He also composed and sings what many Panamanians consider                     
their second national anthem. The song is titled "Patria" (Motherland).                         
He remains wildly popular in Panama and much admired throughout Latin America,                 
and managed to attract 18% of the vote in his failed attempt to win the                         
Panamanian presidency in 1994. In September 2004, he was appointed minister of                 
tourism by Panamanian president Martin Torrijos. He holds law degrees from the                 
University of Panama and Harvard School of Law.                                                 
Blades is an Anglo-Saxon surname, but as with many other such names the                         
mispronunciation in Spanish became widely used. His surname is either pronounced               
in its original English form or using Spanish phonemes; his family uses the                     
English pronunciation.                                                                         
Blades' father Ruben was a percussionist-turned-detective, and his mother                       
Anoland was a singer and pianist. Her great-uncle Juan Bellido de Luna was                     
active in the Cuban revolutionary movement against Spain and was later a writer                 
and publisher in New York. Blades' paternal grandfather, Reuben Blades, was an                 
English-speaking native of St. Lucia who came to work on the Panama Canal, as he               
tells in the song "West Indian Man" on the album Amor y Control ("That's where                 
the Blades comes from") (1992).                                                                 
In Blades' early days, he was a singer in Los Salvajes del Ritmo with fellow                   
university students, and also a songwriter and guest singer with a professional                 
Latin music conjunto Bush y sus Magnificos. His strongest influence of the day                 
was the Joe Cuba sextet and Cheo Feliciano, whose singing style he copied to the               
point of imitating his voice tone and vocal range.                                             
Blades earned degrees in political science and law at Panama's Universidad                     
Nacional and performed legal work at the Bank of Panama as a law student. Upon                 
his graduation in 1974, Blades moved to the United States, staying temporarily                 
with his exiled parents in Miami before moving to New York City.                               
He began his formal musical career in New York writing songs while working in                   
the mailroom at Fania Records, perceived as a talented songwriter who still had                 
to develop a singing style of his own. The proverbial mailroom job was a good                   
opportunity to stay close to the company until the right opportunity came along.               
Soon Blades was working with salseros Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow. Shortly                   
thereafter, Blades started collaborating with trombonist and band leader Willie                 
Colon, and they recorded several albums together and participated in albums by                 
plena singer Mon Rivera and the Fania All Stars.                                               
Blades' first notable hit was a song on the 1977 album Metiendo Mano that he had               
composed in 1968: "Pablo Pueblo," a meditation about a working-class father who                 
returns to his home after a long day at work. The song later became his                         
unofficial campaign song when he ran for president of Panama. The Colon and                     
Blades recording on the same album of Tite Curet Alonso's composition, "Plantacion             
Adentro," which dealt with the brutal treatment of Indian natives in Latin                     
America's colonial times, was an enormous hit in various Caribbean countries. He               
wrote and performed several songs with the Fania All Stars and as a guest on                   
other artists' releases, including the hits "Paula C," written about a                         
girlfriend at the time; "Juan Pachanga," about a party animal who buries his                   
pain for a lost love in dance and drink; and "Sin Tu Cari√Īo," a love song,                     
featuring a bomba break. The latter two songs feature piano solos by Papo Lucca.               
The Colon and Blades album Siembra (1978) became the best-selling salsa record                 
in history. It has sold over 25 million copies, and almost all of its songs were               
hits at one time or another in various Latin American countries.                               
Blades became dissatisfied with Fania and tried to terminate his contract, but                 
was contractually obliged to record several more albums. With the exception of                 
Maestra Vida, which could be considered the first Latin American opera, and its                 
follow-up Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos, these are forgettable. In 1984,                 
Blades signed with Elektra and assembled a top-notch band (known variously as                   
Seis Del Solar or Son Del Solar) and recorded a number of albums with them                     
including the Grammy-winning albums Escenas and Antecedente. Fania continued to                 
release recordings compiled from their archives for some years afterwards.                     
In 1982, Blades got his first acting role in The Last Fight, portraying a singer-turned-boxer   
vying for a championship against a fighter who was played by real-life world-champion           
boxer Salvador Sanchez. In 1985, Blades gained widespread recognition as co-writer             
and star of the independent film Crossover Dreams as a New York salsa singer                   
willing to do anything to break into the mainstream. Blades also began his                     
career in films as a composer of soundtracks.                                                   
Also in 1985, he earned a master's degree in international law from Harvard                     
University School of Law. He was also the subject of Robert Mugge's documentary                 
The Return of Ruben Blades, which debuted at that year's Denver Film Festival.                 
During the 1990s, he acted in films and continued to make records with Seis/Son                 
del Solar. In 1994 he mounted his unsuccessful presidential bid, founding the                   
party Movimiento Papa Egoro. The album that followed this experience was La Rosa               
de los Vientos with songs by other Panamanian songwriters, using all Panamanian                 
In 1997, Blades headed the cast of singer/songwriter Paul Simon's first Broadway               
musical, The Capeman, based on a true story about a violent youth who becomes a                 
poet in prison, which also starred Marc Anthony and Ednita Nazario.                             
His many film appearances include The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Two                     
Jakes (1990), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Color of Night (1994), and Devil's Own (1997).           
In 1999, he played Mexican artist Diego Rivera in Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock.               
In the 2003 film Once Upon a Time in Mexico, starring Johnny Depp, Antonio                     
Banderas, and Willem Dafoe, he played the role of a retired FBI agent.                         
Blades' 1999 album Tiempos, which he recorded with musicians from the Costa                     
Rican groups Editus and Sexteto de Jazz Latino, represented a break from his                   
salsa past and a further rejection of commercial trends in Latin music.                         
Ironically, the album won a Grammy in the Latin Pop category. Even more eclectic               
was the 2002 album Mundo with the 11-member Editus Ensemble and bagpiper Eric                   
It has been said that releasing an English-language album in 1988 was a mistake,               
but in fact, he tends to avoid commercial choices and ignore conventional wisdom.               
After winning his first Grammy for Escenas in 1986, he recorded the album Agua                 
de Luna based on the short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1987. The next                 
year he released the English-language collaboration with rock artists Sting,                   
Elvis Costello, and Lou Reed the same year as Antecedente, another Grammy winner.               
In 2003 he followed the World Music Grammy and Latin Grammy winner Mundo with a                 
web site free-download project. As he said in 2005 when receiving the ASCAP                     
Founders Award about his non-commercial choices, "That's the way I think."                     
Blades is the personification, or at least the [Latin] American version, of the                 
Renaissance man, and has continually strived to sharpen his                                     
skills (which are considerable), and to keep on the cutting                                     
edge of music. He has recorded with numerous up-and-coming younger artists in                   
both supportive and feature roles.                                                             
In 2004 he put his artistic careers on hold when he began serving a five-year                   
appointment as Panama's minister of tourism.                                                   
Beginning in June 2007, however, Blades turned some of his attention back to his               
artistic career, presenting an "online tv show" titled Show de Ruben Blades (SDRB).