When Gloria Estefan, in May 1993, first stepped onto New York’s Ellis Island, the historic arrival point for millions of immigrants entering this country for the first time, it was a supremely significant moment. She was to receive the highly coveted Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, acknowledging her ongoing role as ambassador representing millions of Hispanic people who, like herself, had immigrated to the United States.
Estefan, whose wide-ranging and supremely entertaining musical activities bring her this year’s Hitmaker Award, has been making hits in her recordings and worldwide concert touring and as an ambassador of good will for more than two decades. Born September 1, 1957 as Gloria Fajardo in Havana, her family immigrated to the U.S. two years later, just as the new Castro regime was taking over the island nation.
Like many children of her generation, she grew up listening to the music of her parents and grandparents. As a child she took her first musical steps singing and playing some of the classic Latin song favorites. During that earliest phase, she also accompanied herself on guitar.
In the mid-70s, when she was 17, she met Emilio Estefan, also a Miami resident and a leader of his own band known as the Miami Latin Boys. Auditioning and winning a place in the band, Gloria became a popular performer at events and parties throughout South Florida. The band, which eventually became The Miami Sound Machine, featured an interesting and unique amalgam of the more
traditional Latin music, with an overlay of more contemporary influences of rock and roll and standardized pop. Gloria and Emilio married and went on to enjoy a major and still unbroken series of musical and recording successes, interrupted only by a brief recovery period for Gloria following a serious tour bus accident in the early ‘90s.
Incorporating her own solo album projects and those recorded with the Miami Sound Machine, she has released 17 albums which have sold more than 50 million worldwide. Among her biggest-selling were “Primitive Love,” “Let It Loose,” “Cuts Both Ways,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” and most recently, her latest Spanish language album, “Abriendo Puertas.”
Her success with single records is equally impressive. There are 17 at this writing, including such mega-hits as “Anything For You,” (her very first number one single); “Coming Out Of The Dark” and “Conga,” all of which became gold records; and “Live For Loving You,” “Turn the Beat Around,” “Mi Tierra,” “Don’t Wanna Lose You” and “Get on Your Feet,” all of which went to number one on the charts, and “Go Away,” the memorable motion picture song from “Made In America,” which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson.
Many of the major hits of Estefan’s astounding career were contained in her “Greatest Hits” album, released in late 1992. The album contained 10 of her top chart hits, plus four new songs, including “Always Tomorrow,” written for and inspired by the victims of the then very recent phenomenon known as Hurricane Andrew. Gloria and Emilio Estefan were instrumental in organizing and producing
the “Hurricane Relief concert in Miami, which raised nearly $3 million for victims of the disaster. Also, artist and songwriter royalties from the song “Almost Tomorrow,” were donated to the Hurricane Relief Fund.
Ms. Estefan has taken down her share of honors and accolades during her career. She was appointed by the then President Bush as a public member of the U.S. delegation to the 47th UN General Assembly. She won the Grammy award for “Best Latin Tropical Album” in two different years; in 1993 for “Mi Tierra,” and in 1996 for “Abriendo Puertas,” and has also won such assorted commendations as Billboard’s “Best Female Artist” award; BMI’s “Songwriter of the Year” award, and The Musicares “Person of the Year” award for her “sincerity, warmth and generosity.” She and Emilio are also the proud parents of Nayib (15) and Emily (a year and a half). Gloria Estefan’s next world tour begins in July of this year.