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Juan Luis Guerra

Juan Luis Guerra

Juan Luis Guerra during a concert in Boston, Massachusetts.
Background information
Birth name Juan Luis Guerra Seijas
Born (1957-06-07) June 7, 1957 (age 55)
Origin Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Genres Merengue, bachata, salsa, Latin pop
Occupations Record producer, songwriter, musician, composer, arranger, guitarist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active 1984–present
Labels EMI Records
Associated acts Juanes, Enrique Iglesias, 440
Website www.juanluisguerra.com

Juan Luis Guerra (born June 7, 1957) is a singer, songwriter and producer from the Dominican Republic who has sold over 30 million records, and won numerous awards including 12 Latin Grammy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Latin Billboard Music Awards. He recently won 3 Latin Grammy Awards in 2010, including Album of the Year.

He is one of the most internationally recognized Latin artists of recent decades. His pop style of merengue and bolero and Afro-pop/Latin fusion has garnered him considerable success throughout Latin America. Guerra is sometimes associated with the popular Dominican music called bachata, and while this association is partly true, he actually uses the basics of Bachata rhythm with a more bolero feel to the melodies in some of his songs.[1] He does not limit himself to one style of music, instead, he incorporates diverse rhythms like merengue, bolero-bachata, balada, salsa, rock and roll, and even gospel as in the song "La Gallera". "Ojalá Que Llueva Café" ("I Wish It Would Rain Coffee") is one of his most critically acclaimed self-written and composed pieces. A remix of "La Llave de Mi Corazón" ("The Key of My Heart") with Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas is also an example of his fusion of genres.



  Early life

Born Juan Luis Guerra Seijas in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he is the son of Olga Seijas and Gilberto Guerra, a basketball player. Before he committed to music, Guerra studied philosophy and literature at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo. He then studied guitar and music theory at El Conservatorio Nacional de Música de Santo Domingo, then decided to go to the United States to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. He graduated from Berklee in 1982 with a diploma in jazz composition.[2] After his return to the Dominican Republic, he released his first album, Soplando (1984) with a group of local musicians that subsequently became known as Juan Luis Guerra y 440. The group members were Maridalia Hernández, Roger Zayas-Bazán, and Mariela Mercado. The band's name in Spanish is officially publicized as Cuatro Cuarenta (Four Forty), a shortening of the normally strict reading of number "four hundred forty". The 440 part of the band's name refers to the standard tuning of A440. Reportedly the name for the band came from a practice session where Juan Luis's brother suggested the name because the name would reflect how "in-tune and precise they were".[citation needed] According to Guerra, this first album was based on jazz tunes and concepts he had learned at Berklee, and it "wasn't intended to be a commercial hit." Subsequently, however, he began to write more merengues.[2]

Two albums followed, Mudanza y Acarreo and Mientras Más Lo Pienso...Tú. The band was nominated to attend the Festival of OTI (Organization of Iberoamerican Television) to represent the Dominican Republic.

Their next album, in 1989, brought them international acclaim. Ojalá Que Llueva Café, a slow melodic number with superfast background tracks, became a number one hit in many Latin American countries, with the hit song of the same name. Subsequently, a video of the song was filmed and Juan Luis Guerra and his 440 band began touring. (The song's fame was revived in 1996 and 2008 with covers by Mexican band Café Tacuba and Spanish singer Rosario Flores.)


In 1990, they released their next album, Bachata Rosa, which became a major hit and earned Guerra his first Grammy award. The album, having sold more than five million copies at that time, allowed Guerra to keep touring Latin America, USA and Europe. This album contains memorable love songs such as "Burbujas de Amor" (Bubbles of Love), "Bachata Rosa", "Rosalia", "Como Abeja al Panal" (Like a Bee to Honeycomb), "A Pedir Su Mano" (Asking For Her Hand), "Carta de Amor" (Love Letter), and "Estrellitas y Duendes" (Little stars and elves).

Guerra became a controversial figure in 1992 after he released his next album, Areíto (which is a Taíno word for song and dance). It featured the hit single "El costo de la vida", (The Cost of Living), whose video clearly has an anti-capitalist message. Other songs included in this album protest against the poor conditions in many Latin American countries, the celebration of the 'discovery' of the Americas ("1492"), and the double standards of first-world nations. "El costo de la vida" was his first number-one hit in the Hot Latin Tracks. Guerra became the first performer of tropical music to achieve this feat.

In his next album, Fogaraté (1995), he stayed away from recording any protest songs. This album is particularly centered in the more rural and lesser known types of Dominican music, like the Perico Ripiao.

Guerra's 1998 release Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual (Neither The Same Nor Equal) garnered much critical acclaim, winning three Latin Grammys in 2000 for Best Merengue Performance, Best Tropical Song, and Best Engineered Album. Its hits include "Mi PC" (My PC), "Palomita Blanca" (Little White Dove), and "El Niágara en Bicicleta" (The Niagara on Bicycle - literal; to ride a bicycle across Niagara Falls, i.e. a difficult task - coloquial "al pasar el Niagara en bicicleta", Cuban).

  Juan Luis Guerra in concert in Madrid, Spain, during the Para ti tour. July 2005.


In 2003, Guerra released his first new album in six years. Entitled "Para Ti" (For you), the album's songs are mostly religious in nature, reflecting Guerra's fervent Christianity. With this album the singer won two awards at the 2005 Billboards, in the categories of Gospel-Pop and Tropical-Merengue, for the hit single Las Avispas (The wasps), the first time ever that one song has won these two categories at the same time. Other hits included "Para Ti" and "Soldado" (Soldier). At the same time, Guerra was honored with the Latino Special Award for the Music Academy of Spain for his contributions to the music of his country and the Caribbean in the last 20 years.

In January 2006, Juan Luis performed at Berklee's 60th anniversary along with other artists such as Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Michel Camilo and Chiara Civello. That same year, he recorded with Diego Torres in "Abriendo Caminos" (Opening roads) and with Maná in "Bendita Tu Luz" (Blessed your light).

Notably, Juan Luis Guerra was part of the former highest grossing music tour of all time,(U2's 360 tour is currently the highest grossing music tour of all time) as he was the opening act for The Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang Tour at their San Juan, Puerto Rico show in February, 2006.

He was also invited by Sting to sing with him at a concert at Altos de Chavón, La Romana in the Dominican Republic in 2006. At the Premio Lo Nuestro awards in 2007, he was given the honorary lifetime achievement award. He also performed the lead single of his new album, "La Llave De Mi Corazón", released in March 2007.

"La llave de mi corazón" reached number one on the Billboard charts for four consecutive weeks, and was the #1 selling album in Colombia while climbing the charts in other countries[citation needed]. Guerra won more than 20 awards with this CD, including 5 Latin Grammy Awards, 6 Premios Casandra awards, 4 billboard Awards, 2 lo nuestro, and one Grammy Award.

On April 6, 2006, Juan Luis Guerra was honored as a BMI Icon at the 13th annual BMI Latin Awards. Named BMI's 1995 Latin Songwriter of the Year, Guerra's songwriting has garnered 14 BMI Latin Awards.[3]

Juan Luis Guerra was honored at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2007 with 5 awards, sweeping each category he was nominated in: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Tropical Song & Best Merengue Album. The engineers of the album, Allan Leschhorn, Luis Mansilla, Ronnie Torres, and Adam Ayan were awarded Best Engineered album. One night prior to the Latin Grammy Awards he received the Academy's Person of the Year Award for his contribution to Latin music and for his philanthropy.

On March 10, 2008, Juan Luis was honored with 6 awards in los Premios Casandra, the most important award event in the Dominican Republic. He won for Orchestrator of the year, Outstanding artist abroad, Music album of the year for "La Llave de mi Corazón" and "El Soberano" (The Sovereign), the most important award of the night.

On March 16, 2008 He and other artists participated in the Paz Sin Fronteras concert raised by Juanes, because of the conflict in recent days between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

On April 11, 2008 Juan Luis Guerra was the Billboard Latin awards big winner, with 7 nominations and 3 awards.

On September 15, 2008 Guerra was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace "in recognition of his efforts for the benefit of children with disabilities and children in need."[4]

On May 9, 2009, Guerra was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music at its commencement ceremony.

2010 Juan Luis Guerra was featured in Enrique Iglesias' Spanish single, Cuando Me Enamoro, and appeared with Iglesias in the music video. The single has currently spent 17 non-consecutive weeks at #1, the longest tenure at the peak position for both artists. In addition, the single was a self-replacement at #1 for Guerra as it replaced his own single Bachata en Fukuoka from his album A Son de Guerra.

  Singing in other languages

Guerra has recorded several songs in English, like "July 19th" on his Fogaraté release (1995), and more recently "Medicine for My Soul" and "Something Good" with Italian singer Chiara Civello. Some of his songs have verses in both English and Spanish such as "Woman del Callao", "Guavaberry", "Señorita" and more recently "La Llave de Mi Corazón". Album Areíto featured two songs, cover-title song "Areíto" and "Naboria daca, mayanimacaná" which are sung in the Arawak language of the extinct Taino natives of Hispaniola. Juan Luis Guerra also recorded the album "Bachata Rosa" in Portuguese. He uses Japanese words in Bachata en Fukuoka (Bachata in Fukuoka), 2010 Latin Grammy winner for Best Tropical Song.

  Lyrical style

Being a native Dominican, his music is heavily influenced by native Caribbean rhythms, such as merengue and bachata.

His lyrics are often charged with intentionally simple, heavily metaphorical, erotic, or popular expressions, such as "Burbujas de Amor" (Bubbles Of Love) or "El Niágara en Bicicleta" (Niagara on Bicycle), an idiom for something difficult to do.


Title Year Charts[5] Certifications
Latin Albums Tropical Albums Other Charts
Soplando 1984
Mudanza y Acarreo 1985
Mientras Más Lo Pienso...Tú 1987
Ojalá Que Llueva Café 1990 40 2
Bachata Rosa 1991 19 1
Areíto 1992 9 2
Fogaraté 1994 3 2
Grandes Éxitos 1995 10 2
Ni es lo mismo ni es igual 1998 4 2
  • US: 2× Platinum (Latin)[6]
Colección Romantica 2000 6 1
  • US: Platinum (Latin)[6]
Para Ti 2004 2 1 Billboard 200: 108
Top Heatseekers: 3
  • US: 3× Platinum (Latin)[6]
La Llave de Mi Corazón 2007 1 1 Billboard 200: 77
Archivo Digital 4.4 29
A Son de Guerra 2010 2 1
  • US: Platinum (Latin)[6]
Albums that did not chart are denoted with an "—".


Date Song Charts[5] Album
Other Charts
1989 Ojala Que Llueva Café 21 Ojala Que Llueva Café
1990 Burbujas De Amor 2 Bachata Rosa
Como Abeja Al Panal 31
1991 Estrellitas y Duendes 3
Bachata Rosa 15 25
Cartas De Amor 35
Frío Frío 4 Areíto
1992 Señales De Humo 6
1993 Mal De Amor 4
Coronita De Flores 4
Rompiendo Fuente 27
1994 Cuando Te Beso 28
Viviré 5 1 Fogaraté
La Cosquillita 6
1995 El Beso De La Ciguatera 17 5
1998 Mi PC 1 2 Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual
1999 Palomita Blanca 1 3
El Niagara En Bicicleta 2 4
La Hormiguita 33
2001 Tu 28 21 Mientras Más Lo Pienso... Tú
Quisiera 33 19 Colección Romantica
2004 Las Avispas 4 11 Para Ti
2005 Para Ti 17 16
2007 La Llave De Mi Corazón 1 2 Regional Mexican Songs: 33
Radio Songs: 66
La Llave de Mi Corazón
Que me des tu Cariño 2 5
La Travesía 3 3
2008 Como Yo 18 13
Solo Tengo Ojos Para Ti 28 9
2010 Bachata en Fukuoka 1 1 Tropical Songs: 1 A son de Guerra
Cuando Me Enamoro (Enrique Iglesias featuring Juan Luis Guerra) 1 1 Hot 100: 89
Tropical Songs: 1
Mi Bendición A son de Guerra
La Guagua 23 10 Tropical Songs: 15
La Calle (featuring Juanes) 26 9
Songs that did not chart are denoted with an "—".

  440 band members

  • Roger Zayas
  • Maridalia Hernández
  • Mariela Mercado
  • Marco Hernández (replaced Maridalia Hernández)
  • Adalgisa Pantaleón (replaced Mariela Mercado)
  • Quico Rizek (replaced Marco Hernández)


We write for our home audience. We play music that appeals to those at home, a music that feels natural and intuitive.[7]


  1. ^ iASO Records, David Wayne. "Juan Luis Guerra Biography", Juan Luis Guerra Biography, 2008, iASO Records.
  2. ^ a b Mark Small, "Juan Luis Guerra: Tropical Music Superstar," Berklee Today, vol. 17, no. 1 (Summer 2005).
  3. ^ "Juan Luis Guerra, Juanes Top 13th Annual BMI Latin Awards". bmi.com. http://www.bmi.com/news/entry/334752. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  4. ^ "Musician Juan Luis Guerra of the Dominican Republic designated UNESCO Artist for Peace," UNESCO press release, September 16, 2008
  5. ^ a b Billboard.com. "Juan Luis Guerra Album & Song Chart History". http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/juan-luis-guerra/chart-history/66634. Retrieved December 5, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "American certifications – "Guerra, Juan Luis"". Recording Industry Association of America. http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?artist=%22Guerra%2C+Juan+Luis%22. 
  7. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 288. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 


  • Manuel, Peter. Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae. 

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