'Queen of Salsa' dies

— Celia Cruz, who went from singing in Havana nightclubs to become the "Queen of Salsa," died Wednesday, her publicist said.

Cruz, who was 77, died of a brain tumor. She had surgery for it in December, but her health faltered. She died at her home in Fort Lee, N.J., according to her publicist, Blanca Lasalle.

Her husband, trumpeter Pedro Knight, was at her side; the pair had celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary Monday, Lasalle said.

In the 1950s, Cruz became famous with the legendary Afro-Cuban group La Sonora Matancera. Cruz dazzled not only with her voice but also her personality. Always flashing a wide smile, the entertainer gave a highly energetic stage show, punctuated often by her trademark shout, "Azucar!" in the middle of a song. The word means "sugar" in Spanish.

She recorded more than 70 albums and had more than a dozen Grammy nominations. She won best salsa album for "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" at last year's Latin Grammy Awards and won the same award at this year's Grammy Awards.

In 1987, she was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and several years later, the city of Miami gave Calle Ocho, the main street of its Cuban community, the honorary name of Celia Cruz Way.

Cruz also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian Institution.


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