PBS spe­cial fetes Glo­ria and Emilio Estefan

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tap -

It’s hard, if not im­pos­si­ble, to ques­tion Glo­ria and Emilio Estefan re­ceiv­ing an award for pop­u­lar mu­sic.

The cou­ple’s writ­ing, pro­duc­ing and per­form­ing skills have been ev­i­dent for decades, ex­tend­ing to their story be­ing told in the stage hit “On Your Feet!” They’re given the Li­brary of Congress Gersh­win Prize for Pop­u­lar Song in a PBS tele­cast Fri­day, May 3 (check lo­cal listings). Rita Moreno and Andy Garcia host the pro­gram taped in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and fea­tur­ing per­for­mances by Jose Feli­ciano, Cyndi Lau­per, Il Volo and the Este­fans’ daugh­ter Emily. Quincy Jones also appears.

With a ca­reer marked by such tunes as “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” Glo­ria Estefan ex­plains, “Mu­sic was what got me through my tough­est times as a kid, when my dad was very ill. He came back from Viet­nam with Agent Or­ange poi­son­ing. I would lock my­self up in my room and use other peo­ple’s songs; I would learn to play them on my gui­tar and lit­er­ally cry by my­self. I wanted to be strong for my mom, so I have a very deep respect and love for mu­sic in general.”

Emilio Estefan re­calls, “When I met Glo­ria, I didn’t even think she would be part of my band. I went to see her be­cause she was singing in a church, and I loved her voice. Then, prob­a­bly six months later, I was play­ing a wed­ding and she came in. I said, ‘Why don’t you play one song with us?’ And I re­ally loved the whole thing.

“I was putting an en­sem­ble to­gether that became the Miami Sound Ma­chine,” adds Emilio. “Com­bin­ing the base of rhythm, we found this fu­sion of sounds – and then with a girl singing, I think it was some­thing fresh. We did the first album, and with a small la­bel, we became No. 1 on the charts.”

Pre­vi­ous Gersh­win Prize hon­orees in­clude Paul Si­mon, Ste­vie Won­der, Sir Paul McCart­ney, Ca­role King, the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Billy Joel, Wil­lie Nel­son, Smokey Robin­son and Tony Bennett. This year marks the first time the award has been given to a mar­ried cou­ple, and to His­panic tal­ents.

Cit­ing com­posers Ge­orge and Ira Gersh­win among her in­flu­ences, Glo­ria Estefan – a Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors re­cip­i­ent and three-time Grammy Award win­ner – notes, “I al­ways try to either inspire or com­mu­ni­cate with an­other per­son through my songs, whether they be ro­man­tic or not, and al­ways from a po­si­tion of strength and op­ti­mism. I’m very con­scious of the power of mu­sic and what it does.”

So is hus­band Emilio, though he also knows the power of Glo­ria. “I re­ally loved the way she sang,” he re­flects, “and then I loved her.”

BY JAY BOB­BIN

The mu­si­cal cou­ple is saluted in Fri­day’s new PBS spe­cial “Glo­ria and Emilio Estefan: Li­brary of Congress Gersh­win Prize for Pop­u­lar Song.”

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