Gloria Estefan’s singing career has made her one of Americas greatest pop stars and one of music’s most successful crossover artists. She was born Gloria Fajardo in Havana, Cuba, in 1958. Her family was staunchly anti- Castro. Her father, Jose Manuel Fajardo, was a soldier and a bodyguard for the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
When Fidel Castro overthrew Batista’s government in 1959, the Fajardo family, like most Batista supporters, fled to the United States.Jose Fajardo later fought as a U.S. soldier in the Vietnam War. Shortly after his return from Vietnam, he developed multiple sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system.
Gloria cared for her ailing father while her mother worked. She began singing as a form of emotional release during the long hours she spent at home.She earned her degree in psychology from the University of Miami in 1978, but by this time, she had already embarked on a profes¬ sional singing career.
While in college, she had joined the group Miami Fatin Boys, led by Emilio Estefan, who became her husband a few years later.The group originally performed songs only in Spanish and had several hits in Spanish¬ speaking countries. Eventually, the group changed its name to Miami Sound Machine.
During the 1980s, they recorded their first crossover albums, Eyes of Innocence and Primitive Love, both ofwhich featured songs in Spanish and English. With Estefan’s husband working feverishly behind the scenes as the group’s manager, Miami Sound Machine even¬ tually signed a contract with the CBS/Sony label. The contract allowed the group to remain bilingual.
The group’s song “Dr. Beat” was a hit in Europe, and in 1986, it had a worldwide sen¬ sation with the song “Conga.” With their unique blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and sounds combined with English iyrics, both songs appealed to a broad audience.
When a producer complained that the group’s music was “too Latin for the Americans and too American for the Latins,” Estefan took it as a compliment. She exclaimed, “That’s exactly what we are!”In 1990, the band’s bus was involved in an accident while on tour in Pennsylvania. Estefan broke her back and was temporarily paralyzed.
She worked hard to recover. Miraculously, in 1991 she was able to join the band on a world tour.Throughout the 1990s, Estefan continued to perform with the Miami Sound Machine, although she also embarked on a successful solo career. With her husband as her manager, she has sold nearly one hundred million records worldwide.