The Rise of Jon Secada: From Refugee to Top of the Charts

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Many great American success stories start as immigrant stories. That's the case with Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Jon Secada.

Secada and his family left Cuba in the early 1970s, eventually settling in Miami where the young man, then known as Juan Francisco Secada Martínez, began to show musical talent.

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He got a big break in the 1980s when Gloria and Emilio Estefan tapped into his songwriting and singing talents. And in the early '90s he went out on his own and shot to worldwide fame with his hit, “Just Another Day.

Secada joins "Chicago Tonight" for an in-studio performance and conversation. Below, some highlights from our discussion.

On his forthcoming album:

“This new project features the music of one of the icons of tropical music, Benny Moré,” Secada said. “As an influential figure for all of Latin America and the world, he was that quintessential band leader and singer when it came to mambo and all of those tremendously wonderful tropical rhythms we all know and love, and that historically have been a part of international music. Benny Moré has been in the thick of it. This record is a throwback to him and his music. We did it very old-school style with a big band and arrangements to cater to that particular time period.”

On growing up in Cuba: 

“As a person, those experiences you have as a child and that kind of connection you have of what you go through with your family sets a mark the minute you are an immigrant and you leave the country you’re born in,” Secada said. “When I eventually came to the U.S. in the early '70s, that experience and those memories became more of the underground of what I wanted to do in America – to be as successful as I could and achieve the American dream. It was laid out by my parents. It was laid out by their effort, their hard work and sacrifice.”

On studying jazz: 

“Music education was something I felt would help me. Jazz was the closest thing that I could get to and associate with and could make myself attached to that dealt with commercial music. The reason I have a career is because I got that education,” Secada said.

On the possibility of returning to Cuba:

“It’s still a very sensitive issue for a lot of Cuban-Americans. I think the leap of faith the United States has taken needs to be reciprocated. I think time is going to tell. I’m not ready to go back. There are still so many questions,” Secada said.

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