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In his native Dominican Republic, merengue superstar Juan Luis Guerra is considered a poet and musician of the people. He and his band 440 are much loved throughout the Latino world and he has become one of the new wave of artists responsible for revitalizing the tropical music that had been languishing during the late '80s from overplay and lack of innovation.
Guerra is the son of a professional baseball player and grew up next to the National Music Gallery. As a teen, he was influenced by the Beatles and by the music of the U.S. hippies. Initially, he taught himself the basics of guitar playing, but after winning a contest, attended the National Conservatory on a scholarship. One of his instructors then helped Guerra get into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts and the many genres of jazz. In time, he found he missed his native Dominican Republic and so returned to experiment with blending local African-influenced music, folk songs and jazz with his group 440. The band takes its name from the universal tuning pattern of the A note, 440 Hertz. The name was chosen by Guerra's brother, José Gilberto, who used to sit and watch them rehearse. One day he commented that they seemed so obsessed with staying in perfect tune that they should call themselves that.
Their debut album, Soplando, made little impact. For their next efforts, Mudanza y Acarreo and Mientras Más Lo Pienso Tu, Guerra and 440 began adding merengue and lightning-quick riffs of "perico ripiao," and suddenly found success with a young crowd tired of hearing the same old thing. The new music, called "bachata-merengue," soon won considerable acclaim in the Dominican Republic. The group was selected by their government to represent the country in the International Music Festival of OTI, the Organization of Ibero American Television. In 1988, Guerra and 440 had one of their biggest hits, Ojalá Que Llueva Café, which became the third best-selling album in Latin America. That year he lost his lead vocalist, Maridalia Hernández, who left to pursue a solo career in Europe, leaving Guerra to become the new lead singer. In 1991, he released Bachata Rose which became a smash hit throughout the Americas and won Guerra his first Grammy in the U.S. The album was particularly popular in Los Angeles and soon Guerra and his band were touring. His next album, Areito, caused controversy in the Dominican Republic for speaking out against social injustices that the desperately poor felt Guerra had never personally experienced. Still, he must be given credit for his sincerity and interest in improving things in his oft-troubled homeland. Musically, Guerra changed directions again for his 1995 effort Fogaraté. This album incorporated more of the increasingly popular African soukous music. It became quite popular. His 1998 release, Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual, garnered Guerra three Grammys for Best Merengue Performance, Best Tropical Song for "El Niagara en Bicicleta," and Best Engineered Album at the first annual Latin Grammy Awards in fall 2000.
After non-stop touring for nearly three years, Guerra took an extended break from recording. He emerged in 2004 with Para Ti, his first album of new studio material in six years. The album was greeted with widespread critical and popular acclaim. He won two awards at the 2005 Grammys. The single "Las Avispas" won in the Best Gospel Pop and Tropical Merengue categories -- the first time in the award ceremony's history that any song had won in two categories simultaneously. Guerra once again toured relentlessly. He appeared alongside a heavyweight roster of stars at the Berklee College of Music's 50th anniversary concert -- Herbie Hancock, Michel Camilo, Pat Metheny, and Paul Simon were also on the bill. He was featured as an opening act on U2's 360 tour as well as for the Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang tour. His next album, La Llave de Mi Corazón, was released in the early spring of 2007. It entered the Billboard Latin charts at number one and remained there for four weeks. He won three Latin Grammys for the album. In 2010, he appeared as a duet partner on Enrique Iglesias' single "Cuando Me Enamoro" and appeared in the music video. The record hit the top spot on Billboard's Latin chart and reigned there for 17 weeks. This was followed by a pre-release single, "Bachata en Fukuoka," from his forthcoming Asondeguerra album in 2010. The single hit number one, knocking the duet entry off its peak. Guerra's next offering was a document of the album's tour entitled Asondeguerra Tour, issued in May of 2013.
In October of 2014, he released the single "Tus Besos," a bachata track heavily inspired by and flavored with, notions of early-'60s doo wop. It hit the top spot on several industry and airplay charts. He followed it with the studio album, Todo Tiene Su Hora in November.
Juan Luis Guerra Seijas (born June 7, 1957), known professionally as Juan Luis Guerra, is a Dominican singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. He has sold over 30 million records, and has won numerous awards including 15 Latin Grammy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Latin Billboard Music Awards. Guerra won 3 Latin Grammy Awards in 2010, including Album of the Year. In 2012, he won the Latin Grammy Award for Producer of the Year.
Guerra is one of the most internationally recognized Latin artists of recent decades. His popular style of merengue and Afro-Latin fusion has garnered him considerable success throughout Latin America. He is also credited for popularizing bachata music on a global level and is often associated with the genre, although his distinct style of bachata features a more traditional bolero rhythm and aesthetic mixed with bossa-nova influenced melodies and harmony in some of his songs. He does not limit himself to one style of music; instead, he incorporates diverse rhythms like merengue, bachata-fusion, balada, salsa, rock and roll, and even gospel. "Ojalá Que Llueva Café" ("I Wish It Would Rain Coffee"), which is one of his most critically acclaimed pieces."Juan Luis Guerra - Biography of a Dominican Icon". Latinmusic.about.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015. "Famosos, cine, música y noticias de televisión en MSN". Entretenimiento.latam.msn.com. Retrieved January 16, 2015. "Latin Grammy Pre-Telecast: Juan Luis Guerra Wins Producer of the Year, Don Omar Scores Best Urban Album". Billboard. Retrieved January 16, 2015. "Juan Luis Guerra". Iasorecords.com. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
ContentsCareer1.1 Early life1.2 1980s1.3 1990s1.4 2000s1.5 2010s
Before he committed to music, Guerra studied philosophy and literature at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo. He then studied guitar and music theory at El Conservatorio Nacional de Música de Santo Domingo, then decided to go to the United States to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. He graduated from Berklee in 1982 with a diploma in jazz composition. After his return to the Dominican Republic, he released his first album, "Soplando"(1984) with a group of local musicians that subsequently became known as Juan Luis Guerra y 440. The group members were Maridalia Hernández, Roger Zayas-Bazán, and Mariela Mercado. The band's name in Spanish is officially publicized as Cuatro Cuarenta (Four Forty), a shortening of the normally strict reading of number "four hundred forty". The 440 part of the band's name refers to the standard tuning of A440. According to Guerra, this first album was based on jazz tunes and concepts he had learned at Berklee, and it "wasn't intended to be a commercial hit." Subsequently, however, he began to write more merengues.
In 1984, after a performance in front of the Dominican entrepreneur Bienvenido Rodríguez, Juan Luis Guerra was signed to Karen Records. This also represented a radical shift in Guerra's musical style, as his music would now be more Merengue focused. In this time period he would record two albums, Mudanza y Acarreo in 1985 and Mientras Más Lo Pienso...Tú in 1987. As a result of his work, Guerra and his band would begin to gain more recognition. The band was nominated to attend the Festival of OTI (Organization of Iberoamerican Television) to represent the Dominican Republic.
In 1988 during the recording of the album Ojalá Que Llueva Café, Guerra would permanently become the leading vocalists of 440. This album also represented the beginning of his international recognition, and the album's sales would place him and his band at the top of the charts in many Latin American countries.
In 1991, they released their next album, Bachata Rosa, which became a major hit and earned Guerra his first Grammy award. The album, having sold more than five million copies at that time, allowed Guerra to keep touring Latin America, USA and Europe. This album contains memorable love songs such as "Burbujas de amor" (Bubbles of Love), "Bachata Rosa", "Rosalía", "Como abeja al panal" (Like a Bee to Honeycomb), "A pedir su mano" (Asking For Her Hand), "Carta de amor" (Love Letter), and "Estrellitas y duendes" (Little stars and elves).
Guerra became a controversial figure in 1992 after he released his next album, Areíto (which is a Taíno word for song and dance). It featured the hit single "El costo de la vida" (The Cost of Living), whose video clearly has an anti-capitalist message. Other songs included in this album protest against the poor conditions in many Latin American countries, the celebration of the 'discovery' of the Americas ("1492"), and the double standards of first-world nations. "El costo de la vida" was his first number-one hit in the Hot Latin Tracks.
In his next album, Fogaraté (1994), he stayed away from recording any protest songs. This album is particularly centered in the more rural and lesser known types of Dominican music, like the Perico Ripiao.
Guerra's 1998 release Ni es lo mismo ni es igual (Neither The Same Nor Equal) garnered much critical acclaim, winning three Latin Grammys in 2000 for Best Merengue Performance, Best Tropical Song, and Best Engineered Album. Its hits include "Mi PC" (lit. "My PC", My Computer), "Palomita Blanca" (Little White Dove), and "El Niágara en Bicicleta" (The Niagara on Bicycle – literal; to ride a bicycle across Niagara Falls, i.e. a difficult task – colloquial "al pasar el Niagara en bicicleta", Cuban).
In 2004, Guerra released his first new album in six years. Entitled "Para Ti" (For you), the album's songs are mostly religious in nature, reflecting Guerra's fervent Christianity. With this album the singer won two awards at the 2005 Billboard Music Awards, in the categories of Gospel-Pop and Tropical-Merengue, for the hit single Las Avispas (The wasps), the first time ever that one song has won these two categories at the same time. Other hits included "Para Ti" and "Soldado" (Soldier). At the same time, Guerra was honored with the Latino Special Award for the Music Academy of Spain for his contributions to the music of his country and the Caribbean in the last 20 years.
In January 2006, Juan Luis performed at Berklee's 60th anniversary along with other artists such as Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Michel Camilo and Chiara Civello. That same year, he recorded with Diego Torres in "Abriendo Caminos" (Opening roads) and with Maná in "Bendita Tu Luz" (Blessed Be Your Light).
Notably, Juan Luis Guerra was part of the former highest grossing music tour of all time, (U2's 360 tour is currently the highest grossing music tour of all time) as he was the opening act for The Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang Tour at their San Juan, Puerto Rico show in February 2006.
He was also invited by Sting to sing with him at a concert at Altos de Chavón, La Romana in the Dominican Republic in 2006. At the Premio Lo Nuestro awards in 2007, he was given the honorary lifetime achievement award. He also performed the lead single of his new album, "La Llave De Mi Corazón", released in March 2007. Guerra won more than 20 awards with this CD, including 5 Latin Grammy Awards, 6 Premios Casandra awards, 4 billboard Awards, 2 lo nuestro, and one Grammy Award.
On April 6, 2006, Juan Luis Guerra was honored as a BMI Icon at the 13th annual BMI Latin Awards. Named BMI's 1995 Latin Songwriter of the Year, Guerra's songwriting has garnered 14 BMI Latin Awards.
Juan Luis Guerra was honored at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2007 with 5 awards, sweeping each category he was nominated in: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Tropical Song & Best Merengue Album. Its engineers: Allan Leschhorn, Luis Mansilla, Ronnie Torres, and Adam Ayan were also awarded Best Engineered album. The night before the Latin Grammy Awards he received the Academy's Person of the Year Award for his contribution to Latin music and for his philanthropy.
On March 10, 2008, Juan Luis Guerra was honored with 6 awards in los Premios Casandra, the most important award event in the Dominican Republic. He won for Orchestrator of the year, Outstanding artist abroad, Music album of the year for "La Llave de mi Corazón" (The Key to mMy Heart) and "El Soberano" (The Sovereign), the most important award of the night.
On March 16, 2008, he and other artists participated in the Paz Sin Fronteras concert organized by Juanes, celebrating the end of the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
On April 11, 2008, Juan Luis Guerra was the Billboard Latin awards big winner, with 7 nominations and 3 awards.
On September 15, 2008 Guerra was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace "in recognition of his efforts for the benefit of children with disabilities and children in need."
On May 9, 2009, Guerra was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music at its commencement ceremony.
On April 5, 2010, Guerra released the official video for his new single "Bachata en Fukuoka". The video was filmed in various locations in the city of Los Angeles, and was directed by acclaimed Colombian director Simon Brand. On June 8, 2010, Guerra released A son de Guerra which contains eight musical rhythms (bachata, merengue, bolero, Mambo, funk, Rock, Jazz, reggae) and includes the collaboration of Juanes among others. The album contains hits like "La Guaga", "La Calle", and "Bachata en Fukuoka". The first single from his new production, "Bachata en Fukuoka", placed in the # 1 position on the Hot Latin Tracks, Tropical Songs, and Latin Pop Airplay Songs of the Billboard charts. Simultaneously, the collaboration of Guerra with Enrique Iglesias on "Cuando me Enamoro" was in the #2 spot on the Rhythm Airplay Chart.
In January 2012, the video for his single "En el cielo no hay Hospital" premiered on YouTube. This song belonged to new musical production of the called "Coleccion Cristiana", an album that features spiritual content. Later that year, he collaborated with the Spanish singer Miguel Bosé on his album Papitwo, in the song "Yo creo en Ti".
On April 25, 2014, "Tus Besos" was released to the airwaves. It is a bachata song, with a music video inspired by the rock and roll of the 50's."Berklee Today". Berklee.edu. Retrieved January 16, 2015. "Juan Luis Guerra, Juanes Top 13th Annual BMI Latin Awards". Bmi.com. Retrieved 2010-10-11. "Youth - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". Portal.unesco.org. Retrieved January 16, 2015. "Robinson, Ronstadt, Guerra, and Massenburg Honored at 2009 Commencement". Berklee.edu. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
Singing in other languages
Guerra has recorded several songs in English, like "July 19th" on his Fogaraté release 1994, and more recently "Medicine for My Soul" and "Something Good" with Italian singer Chiara Civello. Some of his songs have verses in both English and Spanish such as "Woman del callao", "Guavaberry", "Señorita" and more recently "La Llave de Mi Corazón". The album Areíto featured two songs, the cover-title song "Areíto" and "Naboria daca, mayanimacaná", which are sung in the Arawak language of the extinct Taino natives of Hispaniola. Juan Luis Guerra also recorded the album "Bachata Rosa" in Portuguese. He uses Japanese words in Bachata en Fukuoka (Bachata in Fukuoka), 2010 Latin Grammy winner for Best Tropical Song.
As a composer for other artists
In 1988, he made his debut as a songwriter for other artists such as fellow Dominican musician Taty Salas, for whom he wrote the music for De tu boca, a song with which he participated in the now defunct OTI Festival, reaching the top 3 category. He also composed songs for Mexican artists like Emmanuel (No he podido verte, recorded in 1990) and Luis Miguel (Hasta que me olvides 1993 and Te necesito 2003). He also composed for the Puerto Rican salsa singer Gilberto Santa Rosa in 1994.
Being a native Dominican, his music is heavily influenced by native Caribbean rhythms, such as merengue and bachata.
His lyrics are often charged with intentionally simple, heavily metaphorical, erotic, or popular expressions, such as "Burbujas de Amor" (Bubbles of Love) or "El Niagara en Bicicleta" (Niagara on Bicycle), an idiom for something difficult to do. His lyrics also reflect in political issues, but from a deeply human perspective, that is, centering the lyrics in the human drama that social injustice generates. This can be seen in "Visa Para un Sueño" about the broken hope of an American dream for the peoples of the Dominican Republic in particular and Latin America in general, "El Niágara en Bicicleta" about the negligence that destroy the social health services, "El Costo de La Vida" about the effects of global capitalism on the people, or "Acompáñeme Civil" about police and military corruption that leads to exploitation of the people that they should care for.
As lead artist
As guest artist
CollaborationsCite error: The named reference billboard was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
440 band membersRoger ZayasMaridalia HernándezMariela MercadoMarco Hernández (replaced Maridalia Hernández)Adalgisa Pantaleón (replaced Mariela Mercado)Quico Rizek (replaced Marco Hernández)
In October 17, 2008, he participated as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO in an event called "Levántate y Actúa contra la Pobreza y por los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio", in Bavaro, Dominican Republic, during the International Conference of the Americas. There, with over 2,500 young people across the hemisphere, he read out the Dominican Declaration Campaign, at the event organized by the "Dominican Association of the United Nations" (UNA-DR) and Global Democracy and Development Foundation (FUNGLODE), and was supported by the "Department of Public Information of the United Nations."
In April 18, 2010, he organized a concert to raise money for those who were affected by the 2010 Haiti earthquake. After this successful event was held, a children's hospital was later built in Haiti."Juan Luis Guerra organizes Haiti concert". 6abc Philadelphia. Retrieved January 16, 2015.