Rubén Blades

Active - 1983 - 2018  |   Born - Jul 16, 1948 in Panama City, Panama  |   Genres - Drama, Music, Comedy Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Ruben Blades is a man of diverse talents. A driving force in popularizing salsa music internationally and a politician for the people of his native Panama, he is also a noted actor of stage and screen. Blades is the son of a percussionist-turned-detective and a singer/radio performer. Following studies in political science and law at Panama's Universidad Nacional, Blades worked at the Bank of Panama as a lawyer. Later he obtained a master's in law from Harvard. Many years after that, he returned to the Ivy League school to earn a doctorate in international law. Blades had been involved in music since the late '50s, but established himself as a musical powerhouse during the '70s and early '80s. He began his career in films, first as a composer of soundtracks and a songwriter in the early '80s. He made his debut as an actor in The Last Flight (1982), but it was not until he appeared in the semi-autobiographical docudrama Crossover Dreams (1985), which he co-wrote and starred in, that Blades became well known. Subsequent film appearances have included The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Two Jakes (1990), Mo' Better Blues (1990), and Devil's Own (1997). In 1994, Blades ran for the Panamanian presidency and though he lost, garnered over 20 percent of the vote.

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  • Moved to the United States in 1974 after graduating from the University of Panama.
  • Worked in the mailroom of Fania Records, hoping to launch his music career; he eventually became a songwriter for the label.
  • Ran for President of Panama in 1994, coming in third place.
  • Made his Broadway debut in The Capeman in 1998.
  • Served a five year term as Panama's minister of tourism beginning in 2004.
  • Has an archive named for him at Harvard University.