WASHINGTON - Five legendary musicians and performers of the Latin sound whose contributions have had a lasting impact on American music —Selena, Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Tito Puente, and Celia Cruz – will be honored on stamps. Among the distinctive musical genres and styles represented are Tejano, tango, samba, Latin jazz, and salsa. The stamps go on sale in March.
For these stamps, artist Rafael Lopez, of San Diego, CA, painted semi-realistic portraits of each musical artist designed to evoke their personality, vitality, and even their sound. He used a warm palette of colors—from brilliant yellows, pinks, and lime green to rich shades of purple and blue—to suggest the flavor and energy these artists brought to their work. Each musician is depicted in mid-performance. One can almost hear Celia Cruz shout her trademark rallying cry ¡Azucar! (Sugar!) or sense Tito Puente's rhythmic intensity as he performed one of his progressive arrangements on the timbales. Art director Ethel Kessler, of Bethesda, Maryland, says, “My goal was that when you see the stamp, you hear the music.”
Lopez's first project for the U.S. Postal Service was the Merengue design for the 2005 Let's Dance/Bailemos stamp pane, followed in 2007 with the Mendez v. Westminster stamp.
Texas-born Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971-1995)—known to fans simply as Selena—helped transform and popularize Tejano music by integrating techno-hip-hop beats and disco-influenced dance movements with a captivating stage presence. A Grammy recipient, the “Queen of Tejano” broke gender barriers with record sales and awards. Even after her tragic death, Selena remains an important representative of Latino culture.
A superb and evocative singer, Carlos Gardel (1890?-1935) was one of the most celebrated tango artists of all time. Raised in Argentina, Gardel helped popularize the tango in the United States, Europe, and throughout Latin America through his performances and recordings. “The man with the tear in his voice” also achieved fame as one of the stars of the Spanish-language cinema.
Born in Portugal and raised in Brazil, Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) achieved fame as a samba singer before moving to New York City, where she gained instant celebrity in theater, film, and radio. The “Brazilian Bombshell” appeared in 14 Hollywood musicals and recorded more than 300 songs. Her exotic signature outfit and persona are an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Tito Puente (1923-2000) was a musical virtuoso popularly known as El Rey, “The King”. With dynamic solos on the timbales and orchestral arrangements that have become classics in Latin music, Puente helped bring Afro-Cuban and Caribbean sounds to mainstream audiences. He performed for more than 60 years, and his legacy includes more than 140 albums.
A dazzling performer of many genres of Afro-Caribbean music, Celia Cruz (1925-2003) had a powerful contralto voice and a joyful, charismatic personality that endeared her to fans from different nationalities and across generations. Settling in the United States following the Cuban revolution, the “Queen of Salsa” performed for more than five decades and recorded more than 50 albums.