Tañón, Olga (Contemporary Musicians)
Abeautiful face, a husky alto, and an energetic rapport with her audiences characterize only part of Olga Tañón's appeal. Since she first started performing solo in 1992, Tañón has established herself as one of the leading merengue performers, standing out in the traditionally male genre. Her merengue albums have sold millions of copies, earning fans across the Americas and in Europe. Tañón's forays into pop have widened her appeal. Mario Tarradell of the Dallas Morning News wrote of her, "Not since Celia Cruz has Latin music seen a female vocalist able to conquer various genres with the raw power of personality."
Born Olga Teresa Tañón on April 13, 1967, in Santurce, Puerto Rico, she is the youngest of four children. Her parents, Carmen and José Tañón, raised Tañón and her siblings, Glory, Junior, and Marie, in a solid working-class neighborhood in Levittown. From an early age Tañón showed a desire to perform. When she was a teenager she auditioned for the merengue group, Las Nenas de Ringo y Jossie. She had never performed merengue before. In fact, she spent many of her formative years listening to American pop music on the radio. Even though she didn't understand the lyrics, she enjoyed listening to Toto, Air Supply, Chicago, and Madonna. Despite her pop influences, she exhibited a talent for merengue, and she was asked to join the group. She eventually left Las Nenas de Ringo y Jossie and became part of another all-girl group, Chantelle.
While singing with Chantelle, Tañón met representatives of the record company WEA Latina. In 1992 she signed with WEA Latina as a solo artist and released her first album. Sola sold well and introduced Tañón to a world of willing listeners. From her first album until 1999, she released an album a year. Each one was more successful than the last. With her second album, Mujer de Fuego, Tañón was named "Queen of Merengue." But she wasn't satisfied with singing only merengue, and she experimented by adding salsa, cumbia, and ballads to her records. Her third album, Siente El Amor, stretched outside the borders of Puerto Rico and garnered her an audience in the United States, Spain, and Mexico. With her next album she started accumulating awards. In 1995 Tañón won Univision's Premios Lo Nuestro Awards for Best Song, Best Tropical Artist, and Best Tropical Album for Exitos y Mas.
The success of Tañón's previous albums would pale in comparison to the popularity of her 1996 offering. Taking a break from merengue, Tañón released an album of purely pop songs and ballads. Nuevos Senderos sold over 500,000 copies and hit number two in its third week on the Billboard charts. The single from that album, "Basta Ya!" made it to number two on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks. Tañón didn't abandon merengue even after the success of Nuevos Senderos. She went on to win Grammy Awards for Best Merengue Album for her live release Olga Viva, Viva Olga, in 2000, and for Yo Por Ti, in 2001.
Although she spends countless hours in the studio working on the production side, Tañón enjoys the thrill of performing. She loves the connection she has with her audiences. She told Ramiro Burr of the Houston Chronicle what she gets from the experience: "The stage is more fun because of the reaction of the people, of having contact with the people I really enjoy singing to the people and seeing their faces." As a child she was initially afraid to perform in front of others, but despite battling butterflies even now, Tañón puts on an energetic and engaging show.
As her popularity has increased, Tañón has had many honors bestowed upon her. In 1995 she was named "Godmother" of New York's Puerto Rican Day Parade. That same year the Puerto Rican Senate declared November 9th "El Dia de Olga Tañón" (Olga Tañón Day). In 1998 she became the first Puerto Rican to be named the Queen of the Miami Carnival. That same year Tañón received the Casandra Award for Artistic Excellence from the Dominican Republic's Asociacion de Cronistas (ACOARTE). The Casandra Award is the highest recognition given by this group, based in a country that is a stronghold of merengue.
In 1999 Tañón received the Spirit of Hope award at the Billboard International Latin Music Awards. She received this reward as recognition for her charitable work, which is enduring and wide-ranging. Early in her career she began supporting the Pediatric AIDS Center in Puerto Rico. She has sponsored fund-raising events, donated money, and volunteered her time to help this organization. In an agreement with the cereal company Kellogg's, a percentage of sales from boxes with her likeness on them is donated to two shelters run by the Pediatric AIDS Center. In 1999 the donations from this effort had reached $10,000. She also supports Hogar Cuna San Cristobal, a home for pregnant teens who want to give up their children for adoption. A percentage of sales from prepaid phone cards with her image on them is donated to Hogar Cuna San Cristobal.
In 1998, after the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Georges, Tañón and her second husband, baseball player Juan Gonzalez, rented a truck and filled it with supplies. They drove around Puerto Rico delivering essentials like food, clothing, and medicine to those who were affected. In response to another tragedy, she performed at Hispanos Unidos por New York. This concert at Madison Square Garden raised $402,590 for the United Way's September 11th Fund and the Hispanic Federation Fund.
While Tañón has had success in her career, she has not been as successful with her marriages. Her second marriage to Juan Gonzalez was highly publicized from beginning to end. They met in 1994 at a Three Kings Day event she sponsored for the Pediatric AIDS Center. In 1996 they had a daughter, Gabriela. Soon after their December of 1998 wedding, they were embroiled in controversy. Gonzalez was proven to be the father of another woman's child, conceived while he was dating Tañón. Their divorce was finalized in early 2000. Not long after the divorce, Tañón told Burr, 'The most romantic things I have now are my daughter, my career and my public." In 2002 she added Billy Denizard to that list in a private marriage ceremony in Orlando, Florida.
Tañón's success is based on many factors. Whether it's her appreciation for her audience or her gifts to humanitarian causes, she gives as much as she gets. Although she is the Queen of Merengue she continues to stretch her boundaries, recently working on a pop song with the Egyptian singer Hakim. She has an impressive list of accomplishments in the music industry and will continue to make valuable contributions to Latin music and to the world.
Sola, WEA Latina, 1992.
Mujer de Fuego, WEA Latina, 1993.
Siente El Amor, WEA Latina, 1994.
Existos y Mas, WEA Latina, 1995.
Nuevos Senderos, WEA Latina, 1996.
Llevame Contigo, WEA Latina, 1997.
TeAcordaras De Mi, WEA Latina, 1998.
Olga Viva, Viva Olga, WEA Latina, 1999.
Yo Por Ti, WEA Latina, 2001.
Billboard, April 24, 1999.
Business Wire, July 31, 2000.
Dallas Morning News, May 18, 1997, p. 9C; August 20, 2000, p. 43A.
Discount Store News, May 24, 1999.
Houston Chronicle, May 26, 1996, p. 19; February 25, 2001, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2001, p. F3.
New York Times, December 11, 2001, p. El.
PR Newswire, April 23, 1999; October 21, 1999; December 23, 1999; December 7, 2001.
St. Petersburg Times, December 7, 2000, p. 37W.
Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), January 31, 2000, p. 3.
Olga Tañón Official Website, http://www.olgatanon.com (June 7, 2002).
"Telemundo and Billboard Announce Performers for 2002 Billboard Latin Music Awards," Top40-Charts.com, http://top40-charts.com/news.php?nid=2645 (June 6, 2002).
ve M. B. Hermann