Guest Author - Karin Norgard
Juan Luis Guerra is one of the most well-known and successful Dominican singers today. He is known for mixing a variety of musical styles and influences, from merengue and bolero to gospel and pop to African and jazz. He has sold over 10 million records worldwide and has won ten Grammy and Latin Grammy awards. His most popular songs include Bachata Rosa, (1990) Las Avispas (2004), and his newer hit, La Llave De Mi Corazón (2007). Despite Guerra’s success, his career has not been without surprises and even controversy. Here are three things you may not know about Juan Luis Guerra.
1. Bachata Rosa is not a bachata.
The popular hit, Bachata Rosa, was released in 1990 and earned Juan Luis Guerra his first Grammy. Some said the song gave bachata instant international recognition and helped legitimize the genre that for a long time was not respected. However, those who are familiar with bachata music have pointed out that the popular hit song with bachata in its name is actually a balada. The song does not have the same characteristic instrumentation, is not danceable as a bachata, and contains the romantic lyrics of a balada instead of singing about barrio life as other bachateros of the time were doing. In addition, it seems that his other bachata tracks share the same lack of bachata-ness. So what might explain this discrepancy? The reasons Latin music enthusiasts have come up have ranged from Guerra’s history of mixing musical genres to his insufficient study or even ignorance of bachata music.
2. Guerra converted to evangelical Christianity in 2004.
Guerra’s conversion to Christianity in 2004 ignited enthusiasm as well as criticism from fans and others in the Latin music community. It also inspired the religious songs on his next album, Para Ti. The popular track, Las Avispas, was the first song to win in both the Gospel Pop and Tropical Merengue categories at the Billboards (in 2005). Guerra would drop the religious lyrics in favor of his usual romantic lyrics for his 2007 album, La Llave De Mi Corazón. That year, he would win each category he was nominated in for a total of five Latin Grammys in the following categories: Best Tropical Song, Best Merengue Album, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year.
3. Guerra began a charitable foundation, Fundación 440, in 1991.
Guerra founded a charity named after his music group, Group 440, in the early 90s. Now named La Fundación Juan Luis Guerra, the organization’s charitable activities won Guerra the Spirit of Hope award at the 2005 Billboards. The foundation is primarily focused on providing assistance and resources to needy children in the Dominican Republic, particularly in the areas of health, sports and education. Its activities have ranged from providing soccer fields and equipment for marginalized neighborhoods to offering rehabilitation services to young drug and alcohol addicts. The foundation is currently focused on providing assistance to orphanages and infant hospitals. In a message on his website, Guerra credits God with giving people the desire to help others.