If Marc Anthony is the only name you associate with salsa you’re at a high risk to get your Latino card pulled. Do your Latino heart a favor and click through to see a few of the finest, funkiest salseros of all time.
1. Salsa Singers: Marc Anthony
Signature Song: “Nadie Como Ella”
The present king of salsa is singlehandedly keeping the genre alive. As the biggest selling salsa artist of all-time, Anthony’s booming, emotional, ethereal voice brings chills to anyone with a pulse. Proof of the Nuyorican’s staying power and lasting influence: his 2013 “Vivir Mi Vida” topped the Latin Billboard charts for 18 straight weeks.
2. Salsa Singers: Hector Lavoe
Signature Song: “El Cantante”
Even though Marc Anthony’s catalogue is impressive, among salsa fans there is only one king: Hector “La Voz” Lavoe. Initially teaming with another virtuoso, Willie Colon, Lavoe’s vocal range and jibaro ways endeared him to a generation of Latinos looking for their next superstar. The classic Ruben Blades-penned hit, “El Cantante,” painted the picture of a lonely singer, who while going through his own pain, the public only cared about the music.
3. Salsa Singers: Ruben Blades
Signature Song: “Pedro Navaja”
Blades possesses a mind meant for global leadership. The lawyer-turned-singer started out in Fania’s mailroom and eventually got a record deal with the venerable label. When the Panamanian singer/songwriter linked up with Willie Colon the salsa world was never the same. With their 1978 Siembra they produced the genre’s most critically acclaimed and biggest selling (3 million copies) album of all time. “Plastico,” one of the album’s many standouts, detailed the follies of disingenuous people and urged Latin America to unite and overcome social injustices.
4. Salsa Singers: Celia Cruz
Signature Song: “Quimbara”
In her lifetime, Cruz was awarded a National Medal of the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Yale University and the University of Miami. Her honors should give you an idea of the weight and importance of the Afro-Cuban diva. Beginning her career in her native Cuba with La Sonora Matancera, she partnered with some of the greats, including Tito Puente and Johnny Pacheco, and largely remains heralded as the Queen of Salsa.
5. Salsa Singers: Willie Colon
Signature Song: “El Gran Varon”
Legend. Colon, the first signee to Fania Records, is beyond words influential in the world of Latin music. Granted his singing voice wasn’t as developed as his colleagues, but his production (“El Dia de Suerte,” “La Murga,” “El Malo”) and social commentary (“El Gran Varon”) was unmatched. Bow down.
6. Salsa Singers: Ismael Miranda
Signature Song: “Maria Luisa”
A member of the famed Fania All Stars aka the Puerto Rican Beatles, Miranda is known for rousing hits such as “Senor Sereno,” “Borinquen Tiene Montuno,” and “Maria Luisa.” After leaving Larry Harlow’s band, Miranda headed his own orchestra, La Revelacion, and produced one of his finest albums, Asi Se Compone Un Son.
7. Salsa Singers: Gilberto Santa Rosa
Gilberto Santa Rosa
Signature Song: “Que Alguien Me Diga”
Santa Rosa is one of the salsa stars from the '80s that is still churning out music, like last year’s “Necesito un Bolero.” He’s seamlessly bounced between salsa and boleros, and garnered mega hits in both genres.
8. Salsa Singers: Joe Arroyo
Signature Song: “Rebellion”
Outside of New York City and Puerto Rico, Colombia is certainly a hub for salsa greatness and its crown jewel is the late Joe Arroyo. Backed by his band, La Verdad, Arroyo infused Afro-Colombian rhythms and content throughout his storied career.
9. Salsa Singers: Oscar D’Leon
Signature Song: “Lloraras”
El Leon de la Salsa’s voice is full of joy, fun and just about anything else that makes you feel good inside. The Venezuelan singer can even make the worse of scenarios (breaking up, heartache) sound like 3AM in the club (see “Lloraras”).
10. Salsa Singers: Frankie Ruiz
Signature Song: “Desnudate Mujer”
A New Jersey native, the late Ruiz along with Eddie Santiago and Jerry Rivera, became the face of salsa romantica in the 1980s and 1990s. The Boricua crooner’s musical content was a complete 180 from the sociopolitical days of Fania in the 1970s. Just peep the titles of his hits: “Tu Con El,” "Desnudate Mujer," "Quiero Llenarte," "Deseandote," "Tu Eres" — you get the idea.