Help Decide the Future of Aging. Join the White House’s Live Stream Tomorrow. Learn more



Bob Dylan Talks!
Caucasian couple looking at a laptop computer together


Aries - Horóscopo de AARP

Look at what your future holds if your birthday is between March 21 & April 19


AARP Superstar Contest

Help pick AARP’s best singers for a chance to win $5,000.

See Official Rules

Win an ARRP Real Pad Tablet - Tribute to an Ancestor Contest

2015 LIFE@50+ MIAMI

Renew for 3 and attend Life at 50+ for free

Most Popular


Rubén Blades is Back

Many questioned if Blades would return to the music after being in politics. The artist returned

Ruben Blades en concierto

After a five-year hiatus as Panama's minister of tourism, the singer/actor launched a tour, taped a CD... and has "tons of projects." — Photo: Ana Martínez/Reuters/Corbis

En español | On a sunny Los Angeles afternoon several years ago, Panamanian singer and salsa legend Rubén Blades grabbed a boom box and proceeded to play a song from a new album he was working on. Unlike the lush, progressive Afro-Caribbean sound that Blades is known for, the track in question marked a surprising departure in style: a lilting Cuban sonitalicize son, anchored on the rustic sound of guitars and soft percussion, his soulful voice the absolute center of attention. (Son is a style of Cuban dance music, considered the basis of salsa.)

See also: Hispanic Heritage Awards Turn 25.

"I have tons of projects in the works. I'm acting in movies again — just got a part on a musical-themed film that will be directed by a Latino filmmaker."
— Rubén Blades

"I'm recording these songs here at home, building up my own studio, recording whenever I feel like it," Blades said, modestly pointing out a small music room across the hallway.

Soon after, though, he decided to push both his musical endeavors and a lucrative acting career aside in favor of public service. In 2004 he was named Panama's minister of tourism. But he promised he would return to music at the end of his term.

In the intervening years, many music industry insiders questioned whether Blades, 61, would keep his promise and return to the career that turned him into an international celebrity. Last year he kept his word, coming back to the music industry with a vengeance.

When his assignment with the Panamanian government ended in 2009, he sold his Los Angeles home and moved to New York with his wife, singer Luba Mason. Blades then launched a massive tour throughout the Americas that saw him reunited with his seminal eighties combo Seis Del Solar. At the same time, he released the homemade recordings of son-based material, titled Cantares del Subdesarrollo. The album has done remarkably well as a digital download. But that's not all.

"I have tons of projects in the works," Blades says. "I'm acting in movies again — just got a part on a musical-themed film that will be directed by a Latino filmmaker. As far as the music goes, I plan to continue recording albums, unifying the work that I've been doing for the past 40 years: an album of boleros, another one of tangos recorded in Buenos Aires, and a collaboration with [veteran salsero] Cheo Feliciano. I'm also thinking of writing my autobiography."

Cultural icon that he is, Blades enjoys a sterling reputation all over the Americas. But the entertainment business has changed drastically during the years he was absent. Plagued by Internet piracy, the emergence of new genres such as reggaetón, and the slow death of CDs as a viable financial model, the music industry is experiencing a huge identity crisis. 

Next: Q&A with Blades. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save 15-30% on tickets to live Cirque du Soleil shows with their AARP membership card.

Pepperoni Pizza, Papa Johns Superbowl promotion for AARP members

Members save 25% off regular menu price orders at Papa John's.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.