Grammy-winning salsa legend Celia Cruz has died at her home in New Jersey after failing to recover from a brain tumour operation in December (02).

The 77-year-old star, who recently shot a DR PEPPER TV commercial with fellow Latina Paulina Rubio, was pronounced dead yesterday (16JUL03).

Cruz, one of Latin music's most respected vocalists, is a 10 time Grammy nominee, who has received a SMITHSONIAN LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT award, a NATIONAL MEDAL OF THE ARTS and honorary doctorates from YALE UNIVERSITY and the UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI.

She also has a street in Miami, Florida, named after her.

One of 14 children, she was born in the village of Barrio Santra Suarez, near Havana in Cuba.

At the encouragement of a cousin, Cruz began to enter and win local talent shows, and she persevered even though her father attempted to guide her towards a career as a teacher.

She enrolled in Cuba's CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC in 1947, and was picked to front LA SONORA MATANCERA in 1950. Cruz remained with the group for 15 years and married the band's trumpet player PEDRO KNIGHT in the early 1960s.

Cruz and Knight took up citizenship of the United States when Fidel Castro came to power in their native Cuba.

Cruz quit Sonora Matancera's band in 1965 and launched her solo career with a band formed for her by Tito Puente.

She went on to release 80 albums and appeared in the movies THE MAMBO KINGS, SOMETHING WILD and THE PEREZ FAMILY.

17/07/2003 02:08