Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna (born July 16, 1948), known professionally as Rubén Blades, is a Panamanian musician, singer, composer, actor, activist, and politician, performing musically most often in the Afro-Cuban, salsa, and Latin jazz genres. As a songwriter, Blades brought the lyrical sophistication of Central American nueva canción and Cuban nueva trova as well as experimental tempos and politically inspired Son Cubano salsa to his music, creating “thinking persons’ (salsa) dance music”. Blades has written dozens of hit songs, including “Pedro Navaja” and “El Cantante” (which became Héctor Lavoe’s signature song). He has won nine Grammy Awards out of seventeen nominations and five Latin Grammy Awards.
His acting career began in 1983, and has continued, sometimes with several-year breaks to focus on other projects. He has prominent roles in films such as Crossover Dreams (1985), The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Super (1991), Predator 2 (1992), Color of Night (1994), Safe House (2012), The Counselor (2013) and Hands of Stone (2016), along with three Emmy Award nominations for his performances in The Josephine Baker Story (1991), Crazy from the Heart (1992) and The Maldonado Miracle (2003). He portrayed Daniel Salazar, a main character on the TV series Fear the Walking Dead (2015–2017; 2019–present).
He is an icon in Panama and is much admired throughout Latin America and Spain, and managed to attract 17% of the vote in his failed attempt to win the Panamanian presidency in 1994. In September 2004, he was appointed minister of tourism by Panamanian president Martín Torrijos for a five-year term. He holds a Bachelor of Arts’ Law degree from the University of Panama and an LL.M in International Law from Harvard University. He is married to singer Luba Mason.
Blades was born July 16, 1948, in Panama City, Panama. He is the son of Cuban musician and actress Anoland Díaz (real surname Bellido de Luna), and Colombian Rubén Darío Blades, Sr., an athlete, percussionist and graduate of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Washington, D.C. His mother’s great-uncle, Juan Bellido de Luna, was active in the Cuban revolutionary movement against Spain and was a writer and publisher in New York City. Blades’s paternal grandfather, Rubén Blades, was an English-speaking native of St. Lucia who came to Panama as an accountant. His family is uncertain how the Blades family ended up in St. Lucia, but when his grandfather moved to Panama, he lived in the Panamanian Bocas del Toro Province. Ruben Blades thought that his grandfather had come to Panama to work on the Panama Canal, as he tells in the song “West Indian Man” on the album Amor y Control (“That’s where the Blades comes from”) (1992). He explains the source and the pronunciation of his family surname, which is of English origin, in his web show Show De Ruben Blades (SDRB).
In Blades’s early days, he was a vocalist in Los Salvajes del Ritmo and also a songwriter and guest singer with a professional Latin music conjunto, Bush y sus Magníficos. His strongest influence of the day was the Joe Cuba sextet and Cheo Feliciano, whose singing style he copied to the point of imitating his voice tone and vocal range.
- 1970 De Panama a New York (Fania)
- 1975 The Good, the Bad, the Ugly with Willie Colón
- 1977 Metiendo Mano (Codigo/Fania)
- 1978 Siembra (Codigo/Fania)
- 1980 Siembra Live (Codigo/Fania)
- 1980 Maestra Vida: Primera Parte (Codigo/Fania)
- 1980 Maestra Vida: Segunda Parte (Codigo/Fania)
- 1981 Canciones Del Solar De Los Aburridos (Emusica/Fania)
- 1982 The Last Fight (Emusica/Fania)
- 1984 Buscando América (Elektra)
- 1985 Escenas (Elektra)
- 1986 Doble Filo (Fania)
- 1986 Crossover Dreams (Elektra)
- 1986 Agua de Luna (Elektra)
- 1988 Ruben Blades with Strings (Fania)
- 1988 Antecedente (Elektra)
- 1988 Nothing But the Truth
- 1990 Ruben Blades y Son del Solar…Live! (Elektra)
- 1991 Caminando (Sony)
- 1992 El Que la Hace la Paga (Emusica/Fania)
- 1992 Amor y Control (Sony)
- 1993 Joseph & His Brothers (Rabbit Ears)
- 1996 Rosa de los Vientos (Sony)
- 1998 Best Of Rubén Blades (Salsa Masters)
- 1999 Tiempos (Sony)
- 2002 Mundo (Sony)
- 2009 Cantares del Subdesarrollo (Ferjan)
- 2011 Todos Vuelven: Live, Vol. 1 (Ariel Rivas)
- 2011 Todos Vuelven: Live, Vol. 2 (Ariel Rivas)
- 2012 Eba Say Aja (Ariel Rivas)
- 2014 Tangos (Sunnyside)
- 2015 Son de Panama
- 2017 Almost Like Praying
- 2017 Salsa Big Band
- 2018 Una Noche Con Rubén Blades (Blue Engine Records)