On December 8th 2003 Ruben Gonzalez the Cuban Pianist passed away in Havana, at the age of 84. Ruben’s accidental music career lasted over 5 decades and despite arthritis was given new life dispite his intended retirement.
Ruben began his music career in his home town of Las Villas after dropping out of medical school due to financial difficulties. He moved to Havana in 1940 where he played in various bands and released his first recording in 1943. During the 50’s he toured with Orquesta América around Latin America where he became well known. In the 1960’s Ruben became the pianist for Orquesta de Enrique Jorrín with whom he would play for the next 25 years till Enrique Jorrin’s death and Rubens retirement in the late 1980’s.
In 1996 Ruben was contacted by American music producer Ry Cooder, who tried to persuade him to come out of retirement and record with him. Ruben had reportedly not owned a piano in 11 years and was suffering from arthritis was hard to persuade but eventually agreed to Cooder’s proposition. He went on the make seven solo albums before his death and played on the international hit album The Buena Vista Social Club, which popularized his music around the globe.
- Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club to play US, Europe (reuters.com)
- DJ Gilles Peterson interview for Havana Cultura (telegraph.co.uk)