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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > March 2019 - The Specials > GLORIA in excelsis

GLORIA in excelsis

AS A MUSICAL ABOUT HER LIFE AND CAREER HEADS TO THE UK, GLORIA ESTEFAN TALKS TO CLASSIC POP ABOUT HOW SHE BECAME A LATIN CROSSOVER SUPERSTAR ON HER OWN TERMS
Now 61, Gloria Estefan has been involved in music for over 40 years. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal Of Freedom for her contributions to American music.
© Getty Images

Classing herself as “a bit psychic”, Gloria Estefan recalls telling husband Emilio back in the 70s: “I think we’re gonna be famous and I think we’re gonna be famous all over the world.” Four decades later, the Miami Sound Machine frontwoman-turned-solostar adds: “I believed in the music and I didn’t know how it was going to happen but I just knew something was gonna happen.”

Something did happen. Something huge. With Miami Sound Machine and on her own, Estefan has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making her the most successful female Latin crossover artist of all time. She’s also notched up 15 Grammy nominations and three wins.

Born in Cuba, she and Emilio started their professional career with an eye on the worldwide market and first hit the international big time in 1984 when Dr Beat – with its infectious mix of Latin rhythms and English lyrics – stormed the European charts. But, she recalls now, it wasn’t plain sailing.

“We stayed true to who we were but it was a fight,” the 61-year-old singer says when we meet in a London hotel. “What I tell every young artist is, ‘They’re gonna try and change you’. One time they even told Emilio, ‘Lose the singer!’ because it was the time of bands with male leads. Yes, Fleetwood Mac had two female singers but they also had a male singer and, yes, there was Madonna and Cyndi Lauper but that was a new thing in music.”

Not only did record companies encourage Emilio to ditch Gloria, at least professionally speaking, they also wanted him to get rid of the horns and the percussion section. “But we said, ‘This is who we are’ and we fought to stay true to that. I’m proud that we were able to manoeuvre our way into the business without compromising. We stuck to our guns and learned that we’re our best cheerleaders.”

Based in Miami, where she has lived since her family fled Castro’s regime when she was just two years old, Gloria is on this side of the pond to promote On Your Feet!, the jukebox musical about her rise to superstardom that played to packed Broadway houses from 2015 to 2017 and has a sevenperformance run in Leicester this June before conga-ing its way to London.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 50 of Classic Pop is on sale now! For our 50th issue, we had to come up with something very special – and we certainly have… our cover stars this month are The Specials, hot on the heels of the release of their superb chart-topping album, Encore. Our must-read interview with the band delves into their remarkable comeback and the story behind their superb new record. We also catch up with the iconic Gloria Estefan who tells us how she brought Latin grooves to the world and Bonnie Tyler talks us through her new studio album, which features a hotly-anticipated duet with Sir Rod Stewart. 30 years on, we celebrate New Order’s Technique in our latest Classic Album feature and we also serve up a buyer’s guide to the blue-eyed soul of Simply Red. As Wet Wet Wet face the future without Marti Pellow, we meet the band as they embark on a fresh chapter with new frontman, The Voice winner Kevin Simm. Our packed new album reviews section features the wonderful return of Chaka Khan plus Dido, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Paul Weller. On the reissues front, we check out a must-have 10-CD Heaven 17 boxset plus re-releases from David Bowie, Sparks, Erasure and more. In our live reviews section, we elbow our way down to the front for Gary Numan and Echo & The Bunnymen at the Rockaway Beach Festival plus gigs by Chrvches and The Christians. Enjoy the issue!