Ruben Gonzalez, a Cuban pianist who achieved worldwide fame in the mid-1990s with the Buena Vista Social Club, died on Dec. 8. Cause of death was not released. He was 84.
Although he planned to become a doctor, Gonzalez gave up his medical studies in 1941 to devote his life to playing mambo and jazz. He traveled the Cuban countryside for 50 years, performing with Enrique Jorrin’s orchestra and Arsenio Rodriguez’s ensemble.
In 1997, Gonzalez came out of retirement to contribute to the Buena Vista Social Club’s revival of traditional Cuban “son” music. The band was led by Compay Segundo, who died in July. The “Buena Vista Social Club” album sold over 5 million copies and won a Grammy Award in 1998 for best tropical Latin album. The movie by the same name won a New York Film Critics Circle award for best documentary in 1999, and received an Academy Award nomination that same year.
Described as a “cross between Thelonious Monk and Felix the Cat,” Gonzalez returned to the studio in his late 70s to release his only two solo albums: “Introducing