Jordan Levin

Latin songwriters to be honored in Miami Beach

Beto Cuevas, lead singer of La Ley, will perform at the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame awards Thursday at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
Beto Cuevas, lead singer of La Ley, will perform at the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame awards Thursday at the Fillmore Miami Beach.

Latin music awards shows are proliferating, with the Latin America Music Awards and Premios Juventud joining the more venerable Latin Grammys, Premio Lo Nuestro and Billboard Latin Music Awards. But there is one significant difference between those honors and the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame awards, taking place Thursday at the Fillmore Miami Beach: Where most awards focus on singers and stars, the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame honors the often-ignored composers who write the songs that make pop music possible.

That recognition is more important than ever as pop music is increasingly bound up with stars’ online and social media presence, says hall of fame co-founder and CEO Desmond Child, composer of hits for Ricky Martin, Aerosmith and Jon Bon Jovi.

Google Livin La Vida Loca lyrics and the name that will come up under the title is Ricky Martin,” says Child. “It doesn’t say written by Desmond Child and Robi Rosa.”

Songwriters’ income is also shrinking with the growth of music streaming services. Child notes that he and co-authors Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora recently got a check for $110 for six million plays of the Bon Jovi hit Livin On a Prayer on Pandora.

“We are constantly fighting the tech companies,” Child says. “They’re making money with wall to wall music we created … and we get such little royalties. It’s just not fair.”

This third edition of the hall of fame awards is the biggest and most glittery yet, with a long list of top performers and artists from the Latin and mainstream entertainment worlds. They include Café Tacuba, the groundbreaking Mexican alternative rock band; Rita Moreno, the only Hispanic EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winner; La Ley lead singer Beto Cuevas; Colombian singer and bandleader Fonseca, and rocker Alejandra Guzman; each of whom will receive special awards. Gloria Estefan will be accompanied by her daughter Emily on drums. Non-Hispanic figures include singer Dionne Warwick and famed producer and composer Quincy Jones, who will accept the Desi Arnaz Pioneer Award via video. The show is being directed by veteran Broadway and concert producer and director Richard Jay-Alexander, and it includes an orchestra conducted by Miami Symphony Orchestra’s Eduardo Marturet.

Six composers will be inducted: hitmaker Emilio Estefan; Gustavo Santaolalla, a pioneering rock producer and Oscar-winning film score composer; Chilean singer Myriam Hernandez; Argentine singer-songwriter Diego Torres, renowned Colombian songwriter Hector Ochoa Cardenas, and Salvadoran composer Alvaro Torres.

The Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, which is headed by Child and co-founder and president Rudy Perez, also a successful songwriter and producer, has a broad group of top music industry names on its board and advisory committees. But while candidates for the Hall of Fame are chosen by a committee of music professionals, membership in the hall of fame, which includes the ability to vote on inductees, is open to anyone who registers on the group’s website. The number of members has soared from 119 in 2013 to 2,000 last year to 15,000 this year. They hail from 21 Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries in Latin America and Europe, as well as the United States.

“If somebody is a music lover and goes to the trouble of becoming a member and voting, that’s good enough for us,” says Child. “We’re all about join us, be part of the process, become educated.”

Child started the Latin Songwriter Awards after he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a longtime dream, and was dismayed to find that he was only the third Latino to be included. He and Perez, who was on the group’s board and had been quietly agitating for a Latino version of the organization for years, joined forces. They launched the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame at the end of 2012 and quickly assembled their first awards show, in April 2013, at the New World Center in Miami Beach.

Many of the stars who are appearing Thursday, such as Moreno and Jones, are receiving special La Musa awards named for Child’s mother, Cuban songwriter Elena Casals. One honoree who will be known only to industry insiders is Jose Antonio Perdomo, a Brazilian music executive who instituted a process for songwriters to collect royalties in Brazil. But the show also includes figures whom organizers hope will draw younger audiences, such as Yotuel, the Cuban songwriter, rapper and co-founder of the group Orishas; and Anthony de la Torre, a 21-year-old singer and actor on the Nickelodeon show 100 Things to Do Before High School.

“We wanted to make a show that appeals to all ages, so a grandmother and her grandkids will all be glued to the TV,” Child says. “And it’s a way of exposing the new generation to songs that have perhaps been forgotten.”

In recent years the media has paid a lot of attention to Latinos’ demographic growth into the largest minority in the United States, their importance as a political voting bloc, and as the center of debates over immigration. But there has been much less focus on Latinos’ cultural influence.

That means U.S. audiences are missing out on a rich culture, says Moreno, who will receive the La Musa Legacy Award on Thursday. Although Moreno, 83, has worked in entertainment since she was a teenager, she has just recorded her first album in Spanish, Una Vez Mas, produced by Emilio Estefan. On Thursday she’ll perform one of the record’s tracks, a Spanish language version of Somewhere from the musical West Side Story — for which Moreno became the second Hispanic to win an Oscar for her performance as Anita.

“Whenever I sing it people are always showing me their arms to show they have goosebumps,” Moreno says. “It’s very different in Spanish — it has more soul, more emotion. I keep saying to myself “why does it sound so uniquely soulful in Spanish?” It’s just beautiful.”

If You Go

What: Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards.

Where: Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday.

Cost: $35-$100.