Fernando Villalona performs with Gilberto Santa Rosa Thursday, August 9, at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. The show begins at 8:00 p.m., and tickets cost $50 to $95. Visit www.ticketmaster.com.
More than 30 years ago, a lanky Dominican kid with a deep but piercing voice could do no better than third place on El Festival de la Voz ("The Festival of the Voice"). The talent search show, à la American Idol, had been organized by a local artists' association in Santo Domingo. Still, his performance left such a positive impression that the youngster soon found himself singing alongside merengue legends Wilfrido Vargas and Los Hijos del Rey.
Today Fernando Villalona is widely hailed as one of the most musically skilled and influential exponents of merengue ever to come out of the Dominican Republic. His soulful handling of his sensual lyrics, as well as his vocal range, opened doors all over the world as he toured with his own orchestra in the Eighties. He reached international star status with hits like "Celos" ("Jealousies"), "Te Amo Demasiado" ("I Love You Too Much"), and "Baila en la Calle" ("Dance in the Street"). Despite personal heartbreaks, including a divorce that led to years of drug use, he stayed afloat with a bevy of tracks that scored big several years later, such as "Quisqueya" and "Me He Enamorado" ("I've Fallen in Love").
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