Underrated Female #10: La Lupe

12/29/2008

La_Lupe_Class_Trip

Sex. Fire. Soul. Voodoo.” That’s how Cuba’s Soul Sister Number One was described. Couldn’t be more accurate.

Born Guadalupe Victoria Yolí Raymond in Santiago de Cuba in 1936, she was known as La Lupe or La Yiyiyi by her adoring fans. Her groundbreaking musical talent and performance style made her one of Cuba’s most brilliant exports. Unlike the well-behaved Celia Cruz, La Lupe was a wild woman, given passionately to her emotions in any moment. This was a trait that landed her in her fair share of trouble, and some say, doomed her career. But her theatrics were not a distraction to compensate for a lack of talent as is so often the case – singing prowess she had in spades. Her early career in Havana attracted devoted followers including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Jean Paul Satre, Simone de Beauvoir and Marlon Brando.

The sixties saw La Lupe become the most acclaimed Latin singer in New York City, partly due to her partnership with salsa sensation Tito Puente. The Bronx resident was the first Latin singer to sell out a concert at Madison Square Garden.  Watching her performances still gives me chills.

Sadly, her later success was dulled by an emotional instability that led to rumors of drug addiction, ill health, and a spilt with Puente. A fire made her homeless in the eighties and she was destitute throughout her late forties and early fifties. She died at 55 and is interred in Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. This clip from a documentary about her amazing life is a must-see.



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