This article is a supplemental part of theMusic of the United States series.
Latin, Tejano, Hawaiian,
In more recent times, artists such as Carmen Miranda, Desi Arnaz, Xavier Cugat, and Pérez Prado ("The Mambo King") were popular with audiences of all cultures. Judy Garland's first hit, as a member of the "Gumm Sisters", was "La Cucaracha", right down to the line about marijuana.
It was common in dance halls in the 30s and 40s for a Latin orchestra, such as that of Vincent Lopez, to alternate with a big band because dancers insisted on it. Latin music was extremely popular with dancers, not only the samba, paso doble, rumba, and mambo, but even the conga. In the 50s, Perez Prado made the Cha-cha-cha famous, and the Afro-Cuban jazz of Dizzy Gillespie opened many ears to the harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic possibilities of Latin music and is still influential in salsa.
The "Spanish tinge" was also a common feature of rhythm and blues in the 50s. The monster hit "Little Darling" was driven by the clave beat and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon" was a great success. Richie Valens, born Ricardo Valenzuela, blew the roof off the hit parade with "La Bamba", originally a Mexican wedding song.
Likewise, Tex-Mex and Tejano style featured the conjunto sound, resulting in such important music as "Tequila" by The Champs, "96 Tears" by Question Mark and the Mysterians, Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs, Thee Midniters, and the many combinations led by Doug Sahm, including the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes. The Texas Tornadoes featured Freddy Fender, who brought Latin soul to country music. And the Tornadoes' Flaco Jiménez is a genuine conjunto hero, a third-generation accordionist whose grandfather learned the instrument from German settlers in Texas. Johnny Rodriguez is another Latin country star.
During the second part of the decade of the 1990s, Latin music exploded into the mainstream thanks to popular artists like Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez. While Latin music has been popular for many years, its current popularity in the mainstream may have come only after the untimely death of the popular Tex Mex singer Selena. Many attribute Jennifer Lopez's discovery as a talented actress and artist as a result of her title role as Selena in the biographical movie of the same name. Selena was murdered by her fan-club president.
Nowadays, Latin music encompasses a broad spectrum of sounds, artists, genres, and tastes--from Rock en espanol (with groups like Mana and artists like Shakira) to new Latin hip-hop artists like J Lo (otherwise known as Jennifer Lopez) and Big Pun, to banda music played in Los Angeles, to salsa and merengue crossover artists such as Marc Anthony. Another important Latin American singer is Pilar Montenegro. Major record companies have branches specialized in the Spanish American market.