Washington, D.C.–Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today announced that husband-and-wife team Emilio and Gloria Estefan are the next recipients of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The honorees represent two historic firsts for the prize – the first time it has been awarded to a married couple or to musicians-songwriters of Hispanic descent.
The Estefans symbolize the rich cultural diversity of the American musical experience. They are musical auteurs, creating a unique sound of Latin rhythms that transcends cultural boundaries, parlaying their creative genius into entrepreneurship and community activism, and propelling the careers of many of today’s Latino artists to stardom. During their more than 30-year career, they have built a musical empire and made listening to Cuban-infused music one of America’s favorite pastimes.
“The music created by Emilio and Gloria Estefan makes you want to listen to the beat and get on your feet,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “They are the creative force behind the popularity of music steeped in the Latino culture. This dynamic couple’s professional and personal journey truly mirrors the American dream and we are so pleased to honor their musical legacy.”
Bestowed in recognition of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of entertainment, information, inspiration and cultural understanding. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson and Tony Bennett.
“From the moment I started singing, I was drawn to the iconic songs of the immensely talented Gershwin brothers and have had the privilege to record several of them,” said Gloria Estefan. “I am deeply honored, along with Emilio Estefan, my beloved husband of 40 years, to be the 2019 recipients of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. This award celebrates lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding and we feel privileged to have been able to live our lives making and sharing music. We are profoundly humbled to have been chosen for this singular accolade.”
“My life and career in music has been a blessing and I’m humbled by this amazing honor and to be sharing it with my wife,” said Emilio Estefan. “I can only hope that our careers will influence a new generation of songwriters and producers. Throughout my career my wish has always been to inspire minorities and to be an example that with hard work and dedication all your dreams can come true.”
The Estefans will receive the prize at an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., in March 2019. The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide in spring 2019 (a broadcast date will be confirmed at a later time). The program also will be broadcast via the American Forces Network to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.
“Emilio & Gloria Estefan: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; Bounce, a division of Concord Music Group; and the Library of Congress. Major funding for the broadcast is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Additional funding is provided by The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund and The Leonore S. Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board, Michael Strunsky, Trustee; and Buffy Cafritz, Tom Girardi and Marjorie Fisher Furman. Air transportation is provided by United Airlines.
The broadcast of last year’s Gershwin Prize tribute concert for Tony Bennett was recently honored with an Emmy Award for outstanding music direction. The program originally premiered on PBS on Jan. 12, 2018 and is available to view online at pbs.org/GershwinPrize.
Married since 1978, the Cuban-American Estefans started their extraordinary rise to global fame in 1985 with Miami Sound Machine, creating a unique sound that blended Latin and pop rhythms. Many of their iconic hits, including “Conga,” “Turn the Beat Around,” “Get on Your Feet” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” reflected the perfect marriage of creative lyrics, high-octane rhythms and spirited vocals. The song “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” in March was named to the National Recording Registry, an exclusive group of sound recordings selected for preservation because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to the nation’s audio heritage.
The Estefans were both named BMI’s “Songwriter of the Year” and have garnered 26 Grammy Awards between them. Their life story and music were showcased in the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical “On Your Feet!,” which they executive produced. In addition to their musical talents, they are also successful entrepreneurs, philanthropists and humanitarians. The Estefans have received numerous awards, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.