Cover Story - Issue 94
THE KING OF SALSA, A FIVE-TIME GRAMMY AWARD WINNING SINGER-SONGWRITER-PRODUCER, WHO SOLD MORE THAN 10 MILLION ALBUMS WORLDWIDE, IS AT THE PINNACLE OF HIS CAREER. BY NO MEANS IS MARC ANTHONY READY TO SLOW DOWN.
By Jorge Cano-Moreno and Joshua Del Rio
The atmosphere in the main ballroom at Conrad Condado Plaza Casino in Puerto Rico during the 2010 Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards was full of excitement and anticipation. The large room was at capacity with music industry veterans, talent managers, booking agents, label marketing big wigs, international press and of course the new faces of artists that hoped to have careers like the man that was about to take the stage for an intimate one-on-one interview with Leila Cobo, the Executive Director of Content & Programming for Latin Music & Entertainment for Billboard. The photographers, camera crew and anyone with a camera phone ran up to the front of the stage to see the singer known as the top selling salsa artist of all time — according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The five-time Grammy Award winner, who has sold over 10 million albums worldwide, and the first solo salsa act to ever sell out Madison Square Garden. As he took the podium, anyone sitting behind the small army of the media could barely see the entertainer, the man the world has come to adore, Marc Anthony.
Marco Antonio Muñiz was born September 16, 1968 to Guillermina and Felipe Muñiz, a housewife and musician/ hospital Lunchroom worker, respectively. Both parents, being of Puerto Rican descent, named him after Mexican Singer Marco Antonio Muñiz. The youngest child of seven, Marco later changed his name to avoid confusion with his namesake. Anthony grew up in East Harlem and as early as age 12, he would sing for family, friends and in after-school programs. The upstart got his first gigs as a background singer, after being discovered by producer David Harris. In the late 1980's Marc Anthony worked as a songwriter and backing vocalist for pop acts like Menudo and The Latin Rascals. His talent was evident from the start but it would be years later before he embraced Salsa and really became a household name.
His first album was a freestyle album, Rebel on Bluedog Records which came out in 1988. That year he also kicked off his acting career with an appearance in the musical comedy East Side Story. Then in 1989, he sang backup vocals for Ann-Marie, on the freestyle club hit “With or Without You”, produced by Little Louie Vega and Todd Terry; two of dance music legends. In 1990 Marc collaborated once again with Little Louie Vega and Todd Terry on “You Should Know by Now” sung by Chrissy I-eece. A year later in 1991 he sang backing vocals for Edmond titled “Come Back to Me”. Marc Anthony's turning point from Freestyle music to Salsa happened in November 22, 1991 at a show at Madison Square Garden for the 100th album release of the Late Latin Legend Tito Puente in which Marc Anthony and Little Louie where the opening act that night. For some reason that night he made the decision to switch from Freestyle/Dance music to the tropical sounds of the Salsa.
Marc Anthony teamed up with an upcoming producer and hit maker Sergio George for his first Spanish-language album Otra Nota (1993) on RMM records, the label that was home to the already established artist La India and legends like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz. It was founded by the late music impresario Ralph Mercado. Anthony's first time at bat he hit it out of the ballpark with “Hasta Que Te Conoci” a song made famous by Juan Gabriel. Anthony followed the release of the song with a performance at the Radio Y Musica Convention and an appearance on the international TV program Carnival Internacional which created a huge buzz and bookings around the planet. His debut had hits like “Si Tu No Te Fueras” , “EL Ultimo Beso” , “Palabras Del Alma” and the one over looked English song “Make It With You”. Constantly being on tour throughout the Americas as the opening act for legends like Ruben Blades, established him as the future of Salsa and created a new generation of salsa fans.
In 1994 Marc Anthony and girlfriend at the time, Police Officer Debbie Rosado, had a daughter Arianna Muniz . Unlike is his other very public relationships there is very little written or mentioned about Debbie Rosado or his eldest daughter. Even so, Arianna did appear in Jennifer Lopez's (JLO) video “Get Right”. Anthony also teamed up with La India in a duet called “Vivir Lo Nuestro” which appeared on La India album Dicen Que Soy. The sophomore album, Todo A Su Tiempo (1995) on RMM went on to sell 800,000 copies and was certified gold in the US and Puerto Rico. The album also received a Grammy nomination and produced hits like “Te Conozco Bien”, “Hasta Ayer”, “Nadie Como Ella”, “Se Me Sigue Olvidando”, “Te Amare” and “Llegaste A Mi”. Billboard awarded the Hot Tropical Artist of the Year to Mr. Anthony. In three short years Marc Anthony took the Latin Music industry by storm and after two hugely successful albums established himself as the leader of the new school of salsa.
Marc's third album Contra La Corriente (1997) was a more traditional-sounding project and was followed up with a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden. “Y Hubo Alguien” became his first #1 single on the Billboard Hot Latin Track Chart. Other hits included “Contra La Corriente” “Me Voy a Regalar”, “No Sabes Como Duele” and “No Me Conoces”, which featured his then-friend Jennifer Lopez. This album was the first salsa album in history to enter the Billboard 200 chart. In 1998 Anthony started as Salvador Agron in Paul Simon's musical production of THE CAPEMAN based on the real life 1950's New York City murder case. This production also starred Ruben Blades, Renoly Santiago and Latin Pop singer Ednita Nazario. When asked about his experience performing in THE CAPEMAN, Marc was quoted in Urban Latino #19 (1999) confessing that he “learned tons-musically, as a human being, as a friend, as an actor”. “But I don't think I learned anything about singing, except that you have to pace yourself when you're doing a live musical.” THE CAPEMAN also brought Marc closer to his idol Ruben Blades which he considered a mentor, brother and father figure. THE CAPEMAN never found an audience and closed after only 68 regular performances. It was considered a critical and financial flop.
By 1999 Marc Anthony was considered the future of Salsa, a time that also marked the end of his relationship with the genre's most successful Record Label owner the late Ralph Mercado. Mercado was known as the man who took salsa music around the world and built RMM into the Motown of tropical music. After three albums and ongoing battle over business practices Anthony left RMM. He worked on a couple of collaborations one with Aussie singer Tina Arena called “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” for the feature movie THE MARK OF ZORRO. The song won an ALMA AWARD for Outstanding Performance of a Song for a Feature Film. He also recorded the duet “No Me Ames” with Jennifer Lopez for her album ON THE 6. He also got his first Grammy for BEST TROPICAL LATIN PERFORMANCE for Contra La Corriente. Anthony was ready for a change and a new home to continue his evolving career.
Legendary music executive, Tommy Mottola signed Marc Anthony to SONY/BMG hoping to capitalize on “The Latin Explosion” that took over the music industry with Ricky Martin and JLO. Mottola lined up all the hit makers of the time: Corey Rooney, Rodney Jenkins and Walter Afanasieff to create the next big male pop vocal star. The album was entitled Marc Anthony (1999) and produced hits like “I Need to Know” and the Spanish version “Dimelo”. Other hits also include “When I Dream at Night”. His song “You Sang to Me” was featured in the feature film RUNAWAY BRIDE. The project also won a Latin Grammy for Song of the year for “I Need to know”. The album introduced Anthony to a larger audience but was not the huge success expected by SONY/BMG and it alienated his Salsa fanbase.
On May 9, 2000 Marc Anthony married Miss Universe Dayanara Torres Delgado in Las Vegas after a seven month engagement. The following February they had a son named Cristian Marcus Muniz. Anthony was asked to sing the National Anthem on September 21, 2001 the first game played their after the terrorist attack on 9/11. Anthony was also part of the 30 year tribute to Michael Jackson. Soon after, he dropped his second album since signing with Sony/BMG, titled LIBRE (2001) a salsa project that was certified gold with songs like “Celos”, “Este Loco Que Te Mira” and “Viviendo”. The song “Barco A La Deriva” was previously recorded by Venezulan singer and actor Guillermo Da'Vila and spends 14 weeks at number one spot on Billboard.
In 2002 Mended, his second English album was released to mixed reviews. Aside from the album's varied critiques, it still generated hits like “I've Got You” and the Spanish Version “Te Tengo Aqui”. He received the Alma Award for an Outstanding Performance in a Music, Variety or Comedy Special for Christmas in Rockefeller Center. On August 16, 2003 his second son Ryan Adrian Muniz was born, just two months shy of his separation from Dayanara. In January of 2004 Torres filed for divorce and on June 1, 2004 the divorce was finalized. Less than a week later he married Jennifer Lopez in a private ceremony. Anthony also released two albums that summer: Amor Sin Mentias a Latin Pop Album and Valio La Pena a more traditional album. Some of the notable songs from both albums include “Ahora Quien”,”Escupemanos” with Jennifer Lopez, “Tu Amor Me Hace Bien”. In 2004 Amas Sin Mentiras won Best Latin Pop Album of The Year and Valio La Pena won Best Tropical Album of the Year. Lopez and Anthony performed “Escapemos” at the 2005 Grammy Awards. The same year Marc Anthony, Alejandro Fernandez and Chayanne started their 15 city US Tour. This was followed up with Sigo Siendo Yo (2006) a greatest hits album.
In the next two years the music, movie and marriage all seemed to merge with the film project EL Cantante directed by Leon Ichaso and produced by Jennifer Lopez's production company Nuyorican Productions. The film chronicles Hector Lavoe's life to fame, his battle with drugs, his attempted suicide and his death from AIDS. Filming began in 2005 and ended in Puerto Rico on February 2, 2006. Lopez was approached by Lavoe's widow Puchi to play her in the movie version. Leon Ichaso was brought on to revise the script and directed a film that was not only well shot but which also had some memorable performances, especially by Victor Manuel as Ruben Blades signing EL Cantente. The film was released in 2007 generating only $3 million opening weekend but only opened in 542 theaters but became a DVD hit peaking at #8 and grossing $16 million in sales.
The announcement of the pregnancy of Jennifer Lopez caused a frenzy in the press and on February 22, 2008 they welcomed twins Emme Maribel Muniz and Maximillan David Muniz and People Magazine paid an astoushing $6 million dollars for the rights to publish the first pictures. In 2009 Anthony and Lopez joined Gloria, Emilio Estafan , Venus and Serna Williams purchased a minority stake in the NFL franchise Miami Dolphins. On September 16, 2009 Anthony was awarded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Chair Award.
Back at the Latin Billboard in Puerto Rico the press retreat to the back of the ballroom and Marc takes questions from the audience. His demeanor is calm, cool and it feels like he is just talking to his friends and is honestly excited about his current musical project ICONOS. This latest musical endeavor pays homage to music legends such as Jose Luis Perales , Jose Jose, La Mafia and Roberto Carlo. Iconos includes 10 tracks, eight songs previously recorded and two song by Marc Anthony himself and arrangement by Julio Reyes. Anthony was introduced to these songs by his father during his childhood. These songs have been influential to him throughout his lifetime and it's his determination to make his own.
The first single to be released is “Y como es el?” a classic by Jose Luis Perales (1982). It is a very powerfully emotional song which Anthony's rendition takes it to another aesthetic level. Anthony's version of the song is modern but always keeping the essence of the song intact. “Y como es el?” was released on April 8, 2010 and had its first live performance on April 29, 2010 at the Latin Billboards held in Puerto Rico. Marc Anthony's live interpretation of the song was passionate and classic.
The genre of this album is Latin pop mostly romantic ballads with instrumentation that goes from classical instruments, violins, oboes and flutes to acoustic and electric guitars, drum set and bass. The arrangements (mostly by Marc Anthony himself) are full of interesting fusions mixing rhythms such as Sica, which is a Bomba rhythm from African tradition that still alive in Puerto Rican culture and music, boleros, baroque style interludes and pop ballads. There is little percussion and no brass instrument such as trumpets and trombone sections in this new album which is a little unusual for a Marc Anthony album.
Marc Anthony never rests on his accomplishments, gold records, awards, sold out concerts around the world or the last acting gig. He is constant movement like his stage show moving from side to side and career wise always moving forward and always has projects in different stages of accomplishments. Anthony is currently working on a hour documentary with Jose Jose and other musical legends where he chats with them about their experiences with the songs, what inspired them and what they were going thru that made them create such great songs. He is in the middle of a world tour, also promoting ICONOS, giving back with his philanthropic work with kids by supporting charities such as Alas, Children Health's Fund, Los Angeles Free Clinic, RADD and The HolyRod Foundation.
Anthony is always development his acting side and will continue with an appearance in two episodes of the coming second season of HawthoRNe, the TNT medical drama starring Jada Pinkett-Smith as Nick Renata, a hard ass New York City police officer turned private detective. There is a chance that it will become a recurring character and her character's love interest.
At only 41 years old Marc Anthony has taken his childhood experiences, influences, love for music and is constantly building a body of work that is both musical and visual. After more then 20 years his legacy and status are well established and is well on his way to ICON status.
Freelance writer Joshua Del Rio sits down with Marc Anthony:
ULM: I can hear different styles of music mixed in some of the arrangements of the songs especially in “Te lo pido por favor” (“I am asking you please”), what is the inspiration for these new fusions of music?
Marc Anthony: There are different ways to set the tone and I have learned that throughout the years. I am not scared to be daring or labeled. Each one of those elements has influenced me at some point and it is like paying homage even to those little things. This is really who I am. It is like a painting, like a string quartets, like a ballad or rock, it is so diverse that I feel it represents me but at the end of the day. The story never gets lost.
ULM: What should we expect for the Iconos tour?
Marc Anthony: My plan is to do only one tour in small venues where I just sing this album. To have just evenings of Iconos show. That is it. I will say what the songs means to me and why those songs. I think it will be very interesting so it is very possible it will be just like that. ULM: What genre of music do you consider this music to be? And what do you think the reaction of your fans might be? Marc Anthony: I'm not that calculated to make an album thinking of the end result. I am the one who has to sing the song and I am the one who has to marry the song. I just make music that I love. And I think it is so honest and true that is not that hard to get, when the intension is there. A friend of mine who heard the album and told me ‘Bro, each one of those songs took me to my first girlfriend, it took me to moments of love, moments of lack of love and coldness and at the same time because of the modern sound of the music my daughter; now is her turn to create her own memories and twenty or thirty years from now, she going to be saying, man that song.' That filled me up with certain since of …man, somebody got something out of it.
ULM: What is your advice for those upcoming artists that want to make it to the next level?
Marc Anthony: Nothing is ever contingent in what label you are with. If you are talented, you are talented, and there are ways to make it known. If you are doing music just to become famous get out of my face, I don't have anything to say to you. I don't have any advice. If you are doing it because you can't breathe when you think about music, if you visualized yourself as making a difference in the future, if you see yourself performing a song, that you can't eat when you think about music — then talk to me. It is much easier to become a “sensation” on YouTube and all kind of ways, but if you are a true artist, you do it because you cannot sleep without it. It is your oxygen, so I will say, “Check your commitment.” And if you still come at the other side knowing that regardless of what it is going to take, that this is what you want to do, there is nothing that can stop you. Whether you are singing on a corner or in a club, nothing can stop you.