Behind-the-scenes Grammy-winner Rudy Pérez aims to inspire with his new book
In ‘The Latin Hit Maker,’ he describes his journey from Cuban refugee to world-renowned record producer and songwriter.
Grammy-winner Rudy Pérez usually keeps a low profile, despite having worked with superstars like Beyonce and Julio Iglesias and having been named a Billboard “producer of the decade.”
But now he’s stepping out front to inspire others to fight for their dreams, with a new book, “The Latin Hit Maker” (Zondervan, $24.99).
In it, he tells of his journey from Cuba to the United States and the struggles he overcame to become a successful songwriter, producer and arranger. The book, co-written with Robert Nolan, was released by HarperCollins’ Christian imprint Zondervan.
Pérez, who was born in poverty in Cuba, has helped create hits for Christina Aguilera, Il Divo, Natalie Cole, Michael Bolton, Marc Anthony, José Feliciano, Cyndi Lauper, Arturo Sandoval, Andrea Bocelli and others.
“I was a kid who sometimes took the wrong direction,” the 61-year-old says. “But my passion for music and for my dream helped me overcome that and achieve my future in a country that opened its doors for me as an immigrant, as a refugee.”
Pérez spent the first five years of his life visiting his father, who was being held in a remote prison by Fidel Castro’s government. Just as his family was about to leave Cuba in a U.S.-sponsored “Freedom Flight,” a Cuban agent detained his mother at the airport.
“We were almost getting to the plane in the middle of a line of soldiers carrying rifles on each side, which in itself is already terrifying for a child, when suddenly a guard came out and stood in front of my mom and said, ‘All of you proceed; she is not going,’ ” Pérez says.
Once in Miami, he was the target of bullying for not speaking English. By 15, he had joined a gang. He spent six months in a juvenile detention center. He says that time, along with his faith and the support of his family, allowed him to turn his life around.
And always music was his thing. At 13, he spent a year working in a barbed-wire factory and helping his father with painting and construction jobs so he could afford his first guitar and amp.
“All the battles to get out of the slums to do something with my life and getting to see the extraordinary things I got to do was only because of the grace of God, because of my constant fight to keep going and going without stopping to look to the sides,” Pérez says.
That drive has led him to write more than 1,000 songs. He’s had numerous Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations, with five wins as producer and or songwriter, including one for Aguilera’s Spanish album “Mi Reflejo” and Luis Miguel’s “Aries.”
He is also a philanthropist through an ASCAP Foundation scholarship program that helps Latin children in poverty study music at Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music and the University of Miami.
“The Latin Hit Maker” talks about a country that received him as an immigrant. But Pérez avoids making political judgments, while expressing solidarity for migrants.
“I can only tell my own story,” he says. “I cannot be in their skin or shoes because only they and God know what they’re going through. What I see makes me fall down to my knees and pray for those people.”
Pérez, a father of five, writes that the church and his grandfather were great influences on him. His grandfather, a Baptist pastor (like Pérez’s father), was the pillar of his family and made his grandchildren go to church a few times a week. He says that connected him with the three loves of his life — family, faith and music — and that it still does.
“I always say that I’m doing well because of my grandfather and my dad because they were saints, they were amazing men,” he says. “These people lived only to do good and help others.”