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The legendarily intense, immensely talented Cuban singer.

Profile: Homenaje a La Lupe

by John Ramos

It is with sadness that I pay homage to my favorite Latin singer of all time — La Lupe. Lupe Victoria Raymond Joli passed away this past February of a heart attack. La Yi Yi Yi, a famous stage name that she was known for, will always remain in my heart and, I am sure, in the hearts of the many thousands of fans that she touched in her twenty-plus years in show business. Her unique and innovative style made her the creator of the “art of frenzy”. La Lupe, you see, was no ordinary singer. Her performances — including shouts of “Ahi, na ma!”, the kicking off of her shoes, the ripping of her clothes, pulling her hair, biting her hands and arms, beating herself and, at times, her musicians, laughing and crying while dancing on stage — were unforgettable. La Lupe is and will always be legendary. Her on-stage performances were always awesome and considered by some to be too much.

When introduced as a singer in her native Cuba, Lupe described her style of singing like this: “When I sing, I feel trapped in an almost insane fascination which, at the same time, sets me free.” Critics and peers called her a genius, a musical animal. Of her performances, she was described as a sado-masochist with a sense of rhythm.

La Lupe sang everything — salsa, boleros, merengues, bossa novas, boogaloos, joropas, bembes, són montunos, guarachas, and even her own style of rock and roll. She performed all with such a high intensity and ferocity that, at times, the show ended with her being carried out with an oxygen mask.

La Lupe recorded approximately 29 albums (2 while living in Cuba), made numerous television appearances including American talk shows such as the Merv Griffin Show and the Tonight Show. In addition, she collected several top awards and gold albums — all of which resulted in the grand crowning of her as “La Reina de la Música Latina.”

During her era, La Lupe was definitely the wildest, most controversial female singer in the world. Many believed that her artistic qualities were a mixture of vulgarity, drugs, voodoo — and actual madness. La Lupe became deeply involved in the Afro-Cuban religion Santería and literally spent a fortune undergoing initiation rituals and on other aspects of the religion.

During the 1970’s Lupe’s career began to decline. She quickly lost all her money, her career, and, some say, her sanity. There were rumors that she was begging on the streets of New York City. In the 1980’s her health, too, began to deteriorate. In 1986 Lupe became a born-again Christian and sang Spanish Gospel until her death on February 28, 1992.

I guess the saddest thing for me was that I never saw the comeback that I was patiently hoping and praying for. My dream is that a book of her life, or better yet, a film, will now be considered. It is difficult for me to select my favorite Lupe songs — to me they are all good. A few that seem to stand out are "Si Vuelves Tu," "Oriente," "Que Te Pedi," "La Tirana," and her English version of "This Is My Life." When I played these shortly after her death the feeling was very strange. I had felt her loss deeply. However, it is nice to know that she left so many famous and unforgettable recordings of her excellent singing abilities — not to mention the wonderful memories of her exciting and outstanding live performances.

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