Site Overview . Chuck Vanderchuck | PBS Parents

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Celia Cruz
Celia Cruz was a Cuban salsa singer who is often referred to as “The Queen of Salsa.” She recorded 23 gold albums (this means each album sold at least 1 million copies). Cruz started singing at a young age and performed on Cuban radio stations. Her first recordings were made in 1948. She had a very successful career and many fans, as she continued recording and performing until her death in 2003.

Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri has been playing salsa music since he was eight years old, growing up in Spanish Harlem (New York City). He played in his uncle’s orchestra in 1940 at the age of 13 and has been a very successful musician ever since. The piano is his instrument of choice. Palmieri is well known for surprising listeners with instrument or style changes, while still preserving the salsa sound. He has won 9 Grammy Awards and continues to perform and tour with his band.

Tito Puente, Sr.
Tito Puente, Sr. is known as the “King of Latin Music.” Since the 1930’s, Puente has been playing the timbales, vibraphone and piano among other instruments. He is also a band leader, arranger and composer. His most popular album, Dance Mania, debuted in 1958. He is credited with bringing salsa to the general public through his popular music for which he won five grammy awards. Puente died in 2000 but his son, Tito Puente, Jr., still performs his father’s music in addition to his own.


Louis Armstrong
Born in New Orleans in 1901, Louis Armstrong had a very rough upbringing. He started singing in the streets with a boys quartet for money when he was 11 years old. To this day, his gravelly voice is one of the most recognizable. As he got older, Armstrong performed on river boats and in jazz clubs. He was a highly skilled trumpet player. His career progressed steadily as he moved to Chicago and then New York City. He is credited with being the greatest improviser in jazz and the first jazz soloist. Armstrong continued to perform and entertain until his death in 1971.

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was a jazz singer and songwriter, born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1915. A record producer heard her singing in a New York City jazz club in 1933 and arranged for her to record her first song. Holiday’s voice was very distinctive and emotional. She had many hit records and after her death in 1959, several compilation albums of her work received Grammy Awards.

Miles Davis
Miles Davis was born in Illinois in 1926. He received a trumpet from his father on his 13th birthday, when he began his musical studies. Davis was so highly skilled, that by the age of 16, he was performing professionally. He entered the Julliard School of Music in New York City after high school. While in New York City, Davis connected with prominent jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and his career accelerated. Before his death in 1991, Davis won numerous awards including eight Grammy Awards. His most influential album, Kind of Blue (1959), went quadruple platinum and is considered the greatest jazz album of all time.


Hank Williams
Hank Williams is considered one of the best and most influential country singers of all time. He was born in 1923 in Montgomery, Alabama. When his mother gave him a guitar for his eighth birthday, it changed Williams’ life. By the age of 14, he was playing on radio shows. After several hit singles, he was invited to sing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1949. Williams went on to have 11 number-one hit singles across his brief career and was one of the first inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Although he only lived until the age of 29, Williams is considered a great influence to several modern musicians of all genres.

Johnny Cash
Born in Arkansas in 1932, Johnny Cash was a singer, songwriter, actor and author. While Cash, with his signature baritone voice and all-black outfits, has influenced musicians across many types of music, he is best known as a country music icon. He learned to play guitar at a young age and by high school he was singing on local radio stations. Cash’s first recordings were released in 1955 and he went on to write over 1000 songs. He has won numerous awards and is one of the few artists to be inducted into three halls of fame: the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Cash continued to record and perform up until his death in 2003.

Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn was born in Kentucky in 1932. When she was 24, her husband gave her a guitar for her birthday. Lynn’s music career officially began when she signed her first record deal in 1960, after being discovered performing in a talent contest. She wrote and recorded several hits including the autobiographical song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which led to an autobiography, which then led to a movie of the same name. Loretta Lynn is best known for standing up for women through her music. In 1972, she was the first woman to receive the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award.


Bob Marley
Bob Marley is the most popular and most influential reggae artist. He was born in Jamaica in 1945. Marley became interested in music as a young man and started playing with friends. In 1962, he formed a band that played under different names until eventually becoming “The Wailers,” which gave way to “Bob Marley and the Wailers.” Marley’s popularity spread to Europe in the mid 70’s as he continued to record, perform, and inspire. Marley won several awards during his brief life of 36 years when he succumbed to cancer. His compilation album, Legend, was released after his death and has sold 20 million copies world wide.

Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff is a singer, songwriter, musician and actor who was born in Jamaica in 1948. Cliff began writing songs as a young boy and his song, “Hurricane Hattie” became a hit when he was only 14. He has written many reggae hits over his career. Cliff is also an actor whose first role was in a popular reggae movie called The Harder They Come. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. Jimmy Cliff continues to record and perform throughout the world.

Peter Tosh
Peter Tosh was a Jamaican reggae artist born in 1944. His music career took off when he and friends Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer started the reggae group, The Wailers. Tosh then went on to work on a solo career. He was a huge advocate for human rights all over the world. Tosh continued to perform and record until his death in 1987.


Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry is considered by some to be “The Father of Rock and Roll.” Berry is credited with bringing together the black and white populations with his innovative music. He began his career playing with bands until he eventually was signed to a record company. Berry recorded several hits such as, “Roll Over Beethoven“ (1956) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) that served as inspiration for many future rock and roll artists. He has received many awards and recognitions across his career, and was the first artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986. He was born in 1926 in Missouri where he still lives and performs.

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley, known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” was born in Mississippi in 1935. Music was his passion and his career began when he was signed to RCA records in 1954. Presley went on to become the best-selling artist of all time, world wide. He also starred in several movies and made numerous television appearances. His influence on music and musicians is immeasurable. Elvis played sold-out shows to devoted fans until his death in 1977. He died in his famous home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Beatles
The Beatles are considered to be the most popular and influential rock band of all time. Formed in 1960, the innovative band wrote and performed together until 1970 when they broke up and members went their separate ways. Consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the Beatles are responsible for starting “The British Invasion.” This is the term used to describe a time period in the early 1960’s when many British bands gained world-wide popularity. The Beatles released numerous hits, in addition to making movies.

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