Emergency, paging Gloria Estefan. Emergency!
She came, she conquered, but where is Gloria now and what is she upto?
by Christopher Smith
Like 80’s music? Like Cuban rhythms and beats? Then it’s a sure bet you own most if not all of Gloria Estefan’s singles and albums. One of the world’s most successful female artists Gloria, together with her band The Miami Sound Machine, are an intricate part of the soundtrack of the 1980’s and beyond.
Gloria Estefan (born in Havana in 1957) has been recording music since 1977, but it wasn’t until 1984 that both she and her group The Miami Sound Machine broke through commercially across the world. It was their eighth (yes eighth!) studio album “Eyes Of Innocence” (1984) and the single “Dr. Beat” that captured the world’s attention when it charted high across Europe, Africa, Australia and, of course, the US. With memorable, repetitive lyrics and an infectious rhythm, the song quickly became a standard and was even heavily sampled by DJ and producer Mylo for his 2005 hit “Doctor Pressure”.
After that, the world moved and grooved to Miami Sound Machine’s music. The hits started to stack up with their next and ninth album “Primitive Love” which included “Conga” in August 1985 (US No.10, UK No.79), “Bad Boy” in 1985/86 (US No.8, UK No.16) and “Words Get In The Way” in June 1986 (US No.5). “Bad Boy” was also used in the opening sequence of the hit movie ‘Three Men And A Baby’.
The group returned in 1987 with their tenth studio release “Let It Loose”, which sold over four million copies in the US and included FIVE smash hit singles. The aptly named “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” was the lead single reaching No.5 in The States – altogether now “oye oye, oye oh ah”. Despite their earlier successes, it seemed the United Kingdom did not initially warm to this album and its singles. It wouldn’t be until the following year and a renaming to “Anything For You” that the UK finally succumbed. It would eventually top the album chart there and sell over a million copies in the process. “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”, which had failed to chart upon its initial release in June 1987, had to wait till December 1988 to peak at No.16 there.
The album also included “Can’t Stay Away From You” (US No.6, UK No.7), “Anything For You” (US No.1, UK No.10) and “1-2-3″ (US No.3, UK No.8). Prior to “Let It Loose”/”Anything For You”, the group had been billed as Miami Sound Machine, but with this release they became Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. From 1989, Gloria would drop the band’s name altogether and all future recordings would be as a solo artist, but with Miami Sound Machine very definitely still providing the music and production.
Her 1989 album “Cuts Both Ways” would become her most successful to date again topping the UK chart and being certified triple Platinum as well as topping the chart around the world and selling more than nine million copies. “Don’t Wanna Lose You” was the lead single topping the US chart and reaching No.6 in the UK. It was followed by “Oye Mi Canto” in September 1989 (US No.48, UK No.16), “Get On Your Feet” (US No.11, UK No.22), “Here We Are” (US No.6, UK No.23) and the title track in April 1990 (US No.44, UK No.49).
And that’s where it could of ended. On 20th March 1990 Gloria was critically injured when a truck crashed into her tour bus, fracturing her spine. An operation to insert two titanium rods to stabilise her vertebral column followed by a year of intensive physical therapy with much support from her fans would all have a profound effect on Gloria’s songwriting and production of her next album “Into The Light”. The lead single “Coming Out Of The Dark” was her most personal to date and became her third single to top the US chart. Further releases included “Seal Our Fate” (US No.53, UK No.24) and “Remember Me With Love” (UK No.22).
1992 saw Gloria release her first “Greatest Hits” album which the singles “Always Tomorrow” (US No.81, UK No.24), “Miami Megamix” (UK No.8) and “Go Away” (UK No.13) were taken. The album has sold over four million copies in the US and a million in the UK.
Since then she has continued to record and release successful albums including “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” (1994), “Destiny” (1996) and “Gloria!” (1998). “Destiny” featured one of the official songs of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, “Reach” which was co-written with Diane Warren and was a chart hit across the globe. Away from music Gloria has appeared in two films ‘Music of The Heart’ (1999) which she also contributed the song “Music Of My Heart” (US No.2, UK No.34), ‘For Love Or Country’ (2000) and made a cameo appearance in the 2008 feature ‘Marley and Me’. She and her husband Emilio own a number of Cuban-themed restaurants and TWO hotels!
She returned to the charts in 2013 with her album “The Standards” which peaked at No.20 in the US and became her most successful in nearly twenty years. In 2015 her life and career were turned into a Broadway musical ‘On Your Feet’. In January 2017 the show celebrated 500 productions! It opened in the West End in London in June 2019 at The Coliseum Theatre. The show also opened in The Netherlands in 2017 and is currently on tour across the US playing in over 60 cities as of Summer 2019. It is planned to take the show to Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico and France in the next 12-18 months.
To date Gloria has sold over 100 million records across the world, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2014 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama for her contribution to American music. Hopefully a new album will not been too far in the distant future and perhaps a return to the road, where she hasn’t played in the US since 2009 and the UK for more than twenty years!