You look like the Miami Sound Machine just EXPLODED all over you! – Noxema Jackson, speaking to ChiChi Rodriguez in campy classic To Wong Foo
Gloria is such a fundamental piece of pop culture that the mere mention of her legacy serves as a milestone in terms of Latin artists going mainstream, a point of reference in time. There are two eras: Before Gloria and After Gloria.
While watching a play in Chicago about her life–titled On Your Feet!, which received glowing reviews–in the middle of the play I realized that my friend (who had invited me to watch the play) had left the theater. After the play ended, I received a text saying that he had left because the scene where Gloria’s father dies had made him very emotional, reminding him of his own dad’s passing. Gloria’s life story and songs do have this cathartic power. She can extract emotion–whether she’s singing about taking pride in her roots, or about romance.
Gloria broke into the mainstream in the 1985 with Conga. While singing in English, her rhythm was credibly Latin, authentic, and contagious, and the sound was fresh in those days. Now, we have gotten used to a fair amount of Latin music in mainstream American audiences. Gloria has also been versatile, singing in both Spanish and English, and genres ranging from bolero, to dance music, to disco, to pop-salsa, to inspirational songs about overcoming odds. Happy Birthday, Gloria!