La Serie, 75, Musician Who Recorded Many Cuban Hits
By PETER WATROUS for the New York Times
Rolando La Serie, one of the great Cuban singers of his
time, died last Sunday at Healthsouth
Doctors' Hospital in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 75.
The cause was cardiac complications, The Associated Press reported.
La Serie had a big, open voice, slightly hoarse and aggressive. Although
some of his biggest hits were
ballads, his up-tempo singing was a marvel of improvisation and sound.
His attack and his enthusiasm
earned him the nickname "El Guapo de la Canción," which in Cuban
slang translates as valiant or
La Serie, from Santa Clara in Cuba, started out as a percussionist -- he
was one of the original
members of Beny More's group -- whose singing was seen as a bit of an embarrassment.
1956 he had the opportunity to record a ballad by Mario Fernandez Porta
called "Mentiras Tuyas,"
which he transformed with his distinctively hard sound. The composer of
the song objected to La
Serie's interpretation, but the record sold 30,000 copies in the first
few days after its release.
La Serie left Cuba soon after, traveling the world and living in Argentina
and Mexico, which cost him
his fame in his native country. But he maintained a busy schedule, recording
with the music's biggest
stars, even in exile from Cuba. He recorded in New York with Tito Puente
and his band in the
1960's for an album called "Pachanga in New York" and with the great Puerto
Rican band Cortijo y
Su Combo, singing with Ismael Rivera. Along the way he continued to have
hits, including "Amalia
Batista," now a Latin standard. He added tangos to his repertory, and his
frequent interjection "De
película!" ("From a movie!") became his trademark.
In the 1970's he moved to Florida, and in the 80's he recorded with Johnny
Pacheco on Fania
Records. He also began recording with Caiman Records, which produced the
fine album "Ay, Se
Pasó La Serie," recorded in 1985 in a modern Cuban style.
He is survived by his wife, Gisela.