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AMAs 2013 to Bring the 'Azúcar!' with Tribute to Salsa Icon Celia Cruz

First Posted: Nov 18, 2013 06:18 PM EST
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Celia Cruz, known as the "Queen of Salsa," was a force to be reckoned with and a vocal powerhouse who had an incredible charisma and stage presence like no other. The late salsa icon's music will once again bring audiences to their feet at the American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 24 on ABC at 8 p.m. EST.

Puerto Rican singer Jennifer Lopez will perform a tribute the Cuban music legend, who passed away in 2003. But can the "American Idol" judge pull it off? If she could portray Tejana star, Selena in the 1997 film, chances are she'll put on a good show. 

What does it take to channel the incomparable Cruz? Plenty of Latin spunk and energy - and of course, 'Azúcar!' (Cruz's signature phrase, which means sugar in Spanish).

Lopez's ex-husband and salsa singer, Marc Anthony, who performed on stage with Cruz in the past, is nominated for "Favorite Artist - Latin." Lopez, 44, will also join Katy Perry, TLC members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkin and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha and Lady Gaga at the AMAs. Her ode to Cruz will be very different from her racy AMAs performance in 2011, when Lopez performed her single "On the Floor" alongside rapper Pitbull, who is the host of this year's AMAs.

Controversy aside, Cruz's music continues to resonate with all generations of Latinos, and even if you aren't Latino, you can't help but move to the rhythm.

Born Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso to a working-class family in Havana in 1925, Cruz began singing as a child, an interest later fostered by her aunt, who introduced her to the world of Cuba's nightclubs, according to Billboard. A student of Cuba's Conservatory of Music, Cruz's career took off in 1950 when she joined La Sonora Matancera, one of Cuba's most prominent dance orchestras.

The singer embarked on a tour with La Sonora Matancera in 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, and never returned to her "Cubita Linda." Sadly, when her father passed away, the Cuban government refused to let her return to the island to pay her final respects.

However, she was embraced by the United States and evolved into an international icon. Dubbed, "The Queen of Salsa," Cruz launched a solo career with percussionist Tito Puente, and performed with the Fania All Stars in the 1970s. She became known for her enthusiastic stage presence and signature outbursts of "azúcar!" as well as her flair for the dramatic with brightly colored dresses and wigs.

She continued to take the stage well into her seventies, including the award-winning "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" in 2001. By the time of her death at 77 two years later, she had raked in 10 Grammys, honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami, and a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award. Cruz has also been remembered with a postage stamp and honored with a National Endowment for the Arts and a Smithsonian Museum exhibit.

Last month, a Google-Doodle of Cruz appeared on the home page showing the late Cuban singer, who would have turned 88 years old, with multi-colored hair wearing a sweeping blue gown - a classic vision like electric blue wigs, electrified audiences worldwide.

Watch Cruz captivate the crowd with a performance of "La Vida Es un Carnaval."

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