This week’s edition of Flashback Fridays is dedicated to La Yiyiyi, La Tirana, The Queen of Latin Soul herself, Guadalupe Victoria Yoli Raymond AKA La Lupe. Her path to stardom began in 1954 when she skipped school one day to take part in a competition in which she sang Olga Guillot’s “Mienteme” and won.
In 1958, she married her first husband Eulogio “Yoyo” Reyes and formed Los Tropicuba Trio with him and another female artist. In 1960, her marriage, as well as the group broke up and Lupe ventured off into solo acts at a small nightclub in Havana called “La Red” which hosted a number of high profile clients, among them famed author Earnest Hemingway and legendary actor, Marlon Brando. That same year, she released her first album under RCA Victor titled, “Con el Diablo en el cuerpo” (With the devil in my body), which ended up going Gold.
In 1962, after being exiled from Cuba, La Lupe began performing in a small cabaret in New York called La Barraca where she was noticed by Fania All Star and percussionist Mongo Santamaria. Her career shot off over the next five years producing over ten albums with Fania Records, collaborating with artists like Santamaria and Tito Puento, and covering different styles ranging from Mambo, Bomba y Plena, Merengue, Son Montuno, and many more including cover versions of American classics like “My Way”, “Unchained Melody”, “Fever”, and “America” from West Side Story.
In the mid to late 70s, Lupe’s performances were becoming more and more erratic, giving room for rumors of drug use to blossom. Most of her shows would end with her being treated with an oxygen mask. Not long after retiring in 1980, Lupe’s health began to decline and she began to fall on hard times, eventually ending up homeless. After a failed attempt at reviving her career in the 1991, La Lupe suffered a heart attack that took her life. She passed away on February 29th, 1992 at the early age of 52.
La Lupe is one of the most underrated and overlooked artists from the golden age of Mambo and was the original first lady of La Fania. Her stage presence, and her wide range of styles were a testament to her great talent and the fact that she doesn’t get the acknowledgement that she deserves is a true tragedy.