By Rudy Pérez
After my first album came out with RCA in 1984, the first single to go to radio was “It’s a Lie.” To promote the record, I was sent to Mexico to perform on one of the biggest TV variety shows in the country, Siempre en Domingo (Always on Sunday). After my performance, the host of the show, Raúl Velasco, came up to me and said, “Rudy, we loved your performance. We are taking several artists on a promotional tour of Mexico and the U.S., including Puerto Rico, for six weeks, and we want you to go.” The invitation was an honor and an amazing opportunity, so I agreed.
One day on the tour, while in Puerto Rico, I came out of the elevator of our hotel. A high-end salon with large glass windows was right across the hall. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Seated in a chair, getting a manicure, was my musical hero, José Feliciano, surrounded by an entourage of men.
José was an international superstar with number one hits in multiple countries and an American TV show. He was a regular artist on shows like Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and The Midnight Special. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, José is blind and had gone from performing on the streets for tips to being a global phenomenon after being signed by RCA. For years, he had been my inspiration. If there was anyone in the music business that I wanted to pattern my career after, it was José.
I stood there, frozen, staring at him through the glass. Finally, I gathered up all my courage, walked into the salon, made my way through the men standing around him, and started talking. “Mr. Feliciano, I am your biggest fan. I love your music and have watched you your entire career. I want to follow in your footsteps.”
He smiled and graciously asked my name. When I told him, he said, “Oh yeah, Rudy Pérez! I know who you are! You have a new record out on RCA. When I was in New York, they played me some of your tracks. I love your songs. . . . Hey, I’m about done here. Let’s go up to my suite and talk. I want you to play me some of your work.”
Even in my wildest dreams, with my imagination running at full speed, I would never have come up with what actually happened in that moment. Hearing José say that he knew who I was, had heard my songs, loved them, and wanted to hear more was so surreal. One of the men with José was a well-known Latino songwriter I recognized. He looked at me, smiled, and gave a thumbs-up.
In the hotel suite, José handed me a guitar, and I began to play him my original songs. Song after song, he kept telling the men with him, “I want to record that on my next album!” After finding out, during the course of the conversation, that I could produce, engineer, and mix, José said to his manager, “I want Rudy to produce my next album! He’s young and has great, fresh ideas. This is just what I need for my new project.”
The manager somberly shook his head. “José, I’m sorry, but it’s too late. The label already has a producer hired, and we’ve signed the contract.”
José shot back, “If you can’t see that Rudy is the right man for the job to produce my next album, then you, sir, are the only blind man in the room!”
Everyone was stunned. You could have heard a pin drop. José then continued, “Tell the label to buy out the other producer from the deal. Rudy Pérez is going to produce my next album!”
Now here’s the really crazy part of the story. The song that first got José’s attention when the RCA guys played him my project was once again the first love song I had written as a teenager. Yes, here it was again, the song I wrote after my puppy love heartbreak. The reason he loved the song so much was the style of how I arranged and produced—an American pop song with Spanish lyrics. I realized that the day the studio owners played me their version of the song, had I not put my foot down and insisted they allow me to produce the song my way, José never would have paid any attention to it.
My heartbreak, the point I thought my young life was over, became the inspiration for the song that José loved, nine years later. Insisting I do the song in my own style provided the hook that drew him in. This proves that the crossroads moments, the pain we endure, the moments we stand up, the times we speak up, the points in life when we exert our faith—those all matter. While we may not see it in the moment, the fruit will surely come. What may seem like insignificant events or strange plot twists in life, when placed in the hands of God, can become life-changing turning points. I love the beautiful, poetic lyrics of King David in Psalm 33:20–22: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”
Adapted from The Latin Hit Maker: My Journey from Cuban Refugee to World-Renowned Record Producer and Songwriter by Rudy Pérez. Click here to learn more about this title, also available in Spanish.
For the first time, music legend Rudy Pérez shares his remarkable journey from a poor refugee kid in Miami to composing the greatest hit songs on the world stage. Named the most successful Latin songwriter in history, Rudy Pérez is the creator behind some of the bestselling records of Beyoncé, Julio Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, and IL Divo.
In his one-of-a-kind memoir, Rudy tells about his childhood in Cuba and the heart-gripping visits to his father in prison during the height of the communist revolution. Tracing his family’s perilous escape on one of the last Freedom Flights to America, Rudy opens up about the years of poverty and growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood. These memories contrast with tender moments of dancing to the stereo with his siblings, nodding along to his mother’s classical favorites, and swaying to blues melodies with his father. At a young age, Rudy tried his hand at recreating the music he loved, and his talent led him to an unprecedented career with over 300 hit songs.
With years of hard work, ceaseless creativity, and a strong faith, Rudy was the first Latin music artist to win Billboard Producer of the Decade. Looking back over his five-time Grammy winning legacy, Rudy shares little-known stories of faith and behind-the-scenes details of working with stars like Fergie, Jaci Velasquez, Michael Bolton, Simon Cowell, and Sam Moore.
A must-read for every music lover, The Latin Hit Maker is a genuine rags-to-riches story filled with inspiration, fascinating details, and a powerful reminder of God’s grace and transforming creativity.
Rudy Pérez is a multi Grammy-Award winning international songwriter, producer, arranger, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He has composed over a thousand songs with hundreds of them becoming #1’s or top ten hits. He has written and produced songs for world artists including Beyonce, Julio Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, IL Divo, Natalie Cole, Michael Bolton, Marc Anthony, Jose Feliciano, Cyndi Lauper, Arturo Sandoval, Andrea Bocelli and many more. Rudy is the only Latin record Producer to be named Billboards Producer of the Decade. He sits on the Board of ASCAP and has won Songwriter of the year at least five times. He’s the founder of the Latin Grammys and the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. He and his wife Betsy live in Miami. Learn more at RudyPerez.com.