Stockholm.– Grammy-award winning Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes died Friday, March 22 in Sweden from complications from Alzheimer’s. He was 94. Cindy Byram, the agent of Valdes' son Chucho Valdes, confirmed the news of his death.
Bebo Valdes was born Ramon Emilio Valdes Amaro on Oct. 9, 1918 in Quivican, a town about an hour from Havana. His passion for music and the piano started to develop in 1925 when he was seven-years-old.
He studied European and Cuban classical music at the Municipal Conservatory in Havana. In the early years of his career he started his first band, Orchestra Valdes-Hernandez and played piano in Havana clubs in Cuba’s golden age.
He was the leader in two Cuban big bands and was a “house” arranger for the popular Tropicana Club. He solidified his skills as an arranger and composer and in the 1940s when he joined Julio Cueva’s orchestra and wrote one of his first mambo songs, breaking a trend in popular music on the small island.
He left Cuba for Mexico in 1960, during the revolution, with singer Rolando La Serie. He had five children with his first wife Pilar Valdes. Bebo Valdes reignited his career later in life with his son Chucho Valdes, also an acclaimed pianist, from his first marriage. He remarried in 1963, starting a new life in Stockholm.