Flashback Artist of the Month for October 2022


“Groovy, baby, groovy!” belts La Lupe on her fiery cover of Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell’s “Fever” from 1963. Fueled by the pressure of newfound fame in the city that never sleeps, it’s a song that perfectly captures the bombastic and unforgettable energy that was the Queen of Latin Soul.

A contemporary and long-life fan of salsa legend Celia Cruz, La Lupe was born Lupe Victoria Yolí Raymond in 1936 in Santiago de Cuba, where she developed a passion for singing at a young age. After escaping school one day to attend and win a local radio competition with a bolero of Olga Guillot’s “Miénteme”, there was little that could stop La Lupe’s fate as a singer. 

After a brief academic career in education, La Lupe would go on to dominate Havana’s nightclubs and garner a high-profile clientele that included the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Marlon Brando. Her weapon? A stage presence that was as flamboyant as it was innovative, as passionate as it was loud. La Lupe’s scream-like vocals and frantic movements were heard on both boleros and guarachas, and she developed a devoted following that made her a star in the Spanish-speaking world. 

Con el diablo en el Cuerpo (1960) was La Lupe’s first album, and it wasn’t long before the premiere of her first televised (and arguably career-defining) appearance in Puerto Rico. Her manic, frenzied performance shocked several in the audience during the performance, but it was enough to put the “talent hurricane” that was La Lupe on the global map. 

La Lupe was exiled to Mexico in 1962. There, Celia Cruz recommended her to Mongo Santamaria in New York City, a record label owner and musician. That decision would bring La Lupe’s talents to the United States, with her lascivious performances now capturing the hearts of American audiences with Latin soul, son montuno, boogaloo, bolero, bomba, and a variety of other Caribbean genres. After forming a partnership with salsa legend Tito Puente in the 1960s, La Lupe was for a time the most acclaimed Latin singer in New York City.

Due to alleged mishandling by her label Fania Records and growing problems with drug use, La Lupe’s performances would eventually begin to decline in quality. As the late 1960s rolled around, her personal life grew increasingly marred with misfortune. After the termination of her contract with Fania and the bittersweet arrival of her idol Celia Cruz in New York City, La Lupe’s ephemeral career faded into the background. After facing an injured spine, homelessness, and a brief Christian religious awakening, La Lupe passed away at only 55. Her vibrant legacy remains strong even today, however, and modern fans of Latin music would agree that there is only one Queen of Latin Soul.

Some of La Lupe’s best-known albums include Mongo Introduces La Lupe (1963), Tú y yo (1965), Queen of Latin Soul (1968), That Genius Called the Queen (1970), and Pero Como va ser? (1973).

Me Equivoqué

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