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Latin Music Legends

A List Featuring The Top 10 Most Influential Latin Music Artists in History

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This is the most difficult list to create regarding Latin music artists. With so many important figures in the history of Latin music, this list is far from perfect. However, I also think it is difficult to challenge any of the names I have included here. To come up with this list of Latin music legends, I used the following criteria:

  • Creativity, innovation and music production.
  • Best selling artists.
  • Outstanding performers.
  • Impact on a particular music genre.
  • Worldwide exposure of Latin music.

I hope you like this introduction to some of the most influential artists in the history of Latin music.

10. Roberto Carlos – The King of Brazilian Music

Photo courtesy Sony Music Latin
Photo courtesy Sony Music Latin

Roberto Carlos is one of the most popular Brazilian artists in history. An outstanding songwriter, Roberto Carlos is also a best-selling artist who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Originally coming from the Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) movement, Roberto Carlos developed a unique style that placed him as one the most important Latin Pop pioneers. Since the 1960s, he has been often referred to as the King of Brazilian music.

9. Damaso Perez Prado – Mambo’s Father

Photo Courtesy Frank Driggs Collection / Getty Images
Photo Courtesy Frank Driggs Collection / Getty Images

I could use just the following sentence to tell you why this Cuban artist is on this list: Perez Prado invented the Mambo. Although the roots of Mambo were laid out in Cuba during the 1930s, Perez Prado was the one who finally played it. Thanks to Perez Prado's Mambo, Latin music gained lots of exposure worldwide. Mambo also played a significant role in the development of Salsa music.

8. Juan Luis Guerra – A Caribbean Music Innovator

Photo Courtesy John Parra / Getty Images
Photo Courtesy John Parra / Getty Images

With his unique music style, this Dominican artist has redefined for the past decades the sounds of rhythms like Merengue, Bachata and Bolero. Juan Luis Guerra is a talented songwriter and producer whose career has been marked by innovation and numerous awards including 15 Latin Grammy trophies. He has sold over 30 million records worldwide.

7. Hector Lavoe – The Voice of Salsa

Photo Courtesy Fania
Photo Courtesy Fania

Hector Lavoe is often considered the best Salsa singer in history. This top sonero was part of the legendary Fania All Stars that brought together the best Salsa performers of the 1970s. Lavoe also shaped the sounds of the Salsa that was developed in New York during the 1960s and 1970s. In other words, he was the perfect voice of Salsa's most glorious age. No wonder why he moved to history with the nickname "El Cantante" (The Singer).

6. Juan Gabriel – A Mexican Music Icon

Photo Courtesy Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Photo Courtesy Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Juan Gabriel is a living legend of Latin music. For the past four decades, this Mexican singer has shaped the sounds of Mexican music touching everything from Ranchera to Latin Pop music. Juan Gabriel is also one of the most prolific songwriters in Mexican music history. His name is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame. One of the best selling Latin music artist in history, Juan Gabriel has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.

5. Soda Stereo – Latin Rock Pioneers

Photo Courtesy Frank Micelotta / Getty Images
Photo Courtesy Frank Micelotta / Getty Images

This Argentinian band brought something quite new to Latin Rock. From the very beginning, Soda Stereo created a style that sounded less foreign than the music that other artists were producing at that time. Thanks to the simple but powerful music this band created, Soda Stereo became the very first phenomenon of the Rock en Espanol movement.

The impact Soda Stereo had on audiences throughout Latin America, inspired the whole Latin Rock boom in the region. Thanks in part to Soda Stereo, Latin America has been able to build a very interesting lineup of Rock and Alternative artists today.

4. Antonio Carlos Jobim – The Master of Brazilian Music

Photo Courtesy Hip-O Records
Photo Courtesy Hip-O Records

Tom Jobim, as he was usually referred to, was an outstanding songwriter and talented musician able to play the piano, guitar and flute. His name is behind some of the most famous Brazilian songs ever produced including "Garota de Ipanema" (Girl From Ipanema) and "Chega de Saudade," the song that started the whole Bossa Nova movement. His influence on Brazilian Jazz was also significant. He was known as "O Maestro" (The Master).

3. Carlos Gardel – The King of Tango

Photo Courtesy Luis Davilla / Getty Images
Photo Courtesy Luis Davilla / Getty Images

This Argentinian artist gave Tango its exclusive spot in the world. In a way, Carlos Gardel was sort of the Rudolph Valentino of Latin music. He was a talented songwriter, a singer with a wonderful voice, and an actor with the right looks. He elevated Tango's status to a worldwide phenomenon. His tragic death in an airplane accident in Colombia transformed Carlos Gardel into one of the most iconic Latin music legends in history.

2. Celia Cruz – The Queen of Salsa

Photo Courtesy Scott Gries / Getty Images
Photo Courtesy Scott Gries / Getty Images

This Cuban singer passed to history as one of the most beloved and charismatic figures that Latin music has ever known. The Queen of Salsa had a powerful voice and a unique figure that transformed this singer into an iconic performer. From La Sonora Matancera and Johnny Pacheco to Willie Colon and La Sonora Poncena, she produced a large repertiore of songs with the best Salsa bands in history.

1. Julio Iglesias – The Best Selling Latin Music Artist in History

Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images
Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images

With 300 million records sold worldwide, this Spanish singer is the best selling Latin music artist in history. Throughout his career, Julio Iglesias has produced nearly 80 albums recording songs in 14 languages. Since the 1970's, Julio Iglesias has captured audiences throughout the world with her romantic style and good looks. He has been the most influential ambassador of Spanish music in history. Julio Igesias is definitely a must have name for any list dealing with Latin music legends.

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