Rubén Blades is a national treasure in his native Panama. One day soon, he may also be the country's president.
The 68-year-old activist, actor, musician, politician, and Harvard-educated lawyer has already cemented his legendary status in the pantheon of great songwriters and vocalists in both his home country and throughout Latin America. In particular, he’s renowned in the worlds of salsa and Latin jazz, winning over the hearts and hips of so many Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans abroad and here in the states.
With millions of records sold and several Latin Grammys on his shelf, Blades, whose career spans the better part of 40 years, remains one of the most influential Spanish language balladeers and hitmakers. His songs often take on social issues while never losing the power to make listeners dance through Afro-Cuban rhythms with hints of merengue, pop, and soul.
His most recent musical contribution is “Champions,” a song cowritten with Usher as the title track to the film Hands of Stone, a Roberto Durán biopic. While that may not be his last composition, this week marks the beginning of the end of his live shows. On Saturday, August 27, Blades debuts his farewell tour, Caminando, Adiós y Gracias (“Walking, goodbye and thank you”), at the Bank United Center.
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This comes on the heels of the return of Fear the Walking Dead on Sunday, in which Blades plays Daniel Salazar, a barber from El Salvador with a difficult past who will protect his family at all costs. Between the notoriously low survival rate of characters on zombie shows and this swan song tour, more credence is being added to the idea of Blades running for Panama’s highest office in 2019, a notion he floated in 2014.
It would be his second bid after a failed attempt in 1994. However, if he succeeds two years from now, this may be our last chance to watch a future commander-in-chief belt out some seriously fun dance numbers.