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From Cuban Refugee to World-Renowned Record Producer

Rudy was born into a close-knit Catholic family in Cuba,  When Fidel Castro came into power in 1959, his regime destroyed every aspect and culture of Cuban life.  Strict food rationing was put into place; children more than a year old couldn’t have milk.  Freedom soon became an illusion.  Rudy’s paternal grandfather experienced a radical life-transformation and became a minister and took all the grandkids to church every Sunday.  When Rudy was 5 years old, his father tried to find ways out of Cuba with his family.  One day, while trying to flee the country, Rudy’s dad was arrested on charges of being anti-Communist and sentenced to 5 years in jail.  Every week, Rudy’s mom would take him and his two siblings to see their dad.  In January 1969, they were able to make arrangements to emigrate to America.  Freedom Flights were taking place at the time, sponsored by the US government.  On their way into the plane, a soldier stepped in front of Rudy’s mom, preventing her from walking further!  The children were crying, and the soldier was shouting.  Soon a commanding officer came over to see what was going on.  He told the soldier to let the family go.  “Had the commanding officer not come to stop the ruckus, or had he agreed with the soldier, how different our lives – my life -- would have been.  Only by the grace of God,” says Rudy.  At 10 years old, Rudy stepped off that plane into freedom.

Life in the US wasn’t easy.  “My struggle has been incredibly hard,” says Rudy.  Their family lived in a small house and stood in long lines for food.  His parents worked hard to save money to get their own place.  Rudy started 5th grade and spoke no English.  The kids bullied him.  “While the abuse only came from a minority of my classmates, a handful of people trying to make your life miserable can feel like an Army.”  Over the next few years, Rudy decided to learn to play the electric guitar.  When he told his mom about his dream to play guitar, she told him to get a job and save his money and so he did!  Rudy lied about his age and got a job working for a company that made the razor barb wire that lined the tops of fences at prisons.  He also worked for his dad painting.  Soon he saved enough for a guitar and amp.  “That was the first of hundreds of thousands of dollars I would put into my tools of the trade over the years,” he says.  

At 15, Rudy joined a large Cuban gang.  One night, he was arrested for breaking and entering and taken to jail.  He was sentenced to 6 months in a state school a prison for juveniles.  One guy, Wendell, befriended Rudy and asked him to teach him to play.  When anyone tried to bully Rudy, Wendell would step in. “The guitar lessons bought my protection for the rest of my sentence,” says Rudy.  One night, Rudy decided he had enough of gangs and wanted everything to be different when he got out.  After he was released, Rudy decided to break free once and for all.  He vowed to only trust God and his family.  “I was ready to see where my music could take me.”  

Rudy quit school when he was in 11th grade and his big break came when he joined a Miami-based band called Pearly Queen.  Soon the band had the opportunity to tour across America.  Rudy started living the musician lifestyle and began using drugs. During a break, he kicked the cocaine habit but after 5 years with the band, he left.  At 22, he was on his own.  Rudy was writing his own songs, singing jingles and became known in Miami as a recording engineer.  He released his first album in 1984.  “I want people to be inspired by an American dream success story,” says Rudy.  “If a poor kid from Cuba would end up with #1 hit songs, anyone can fulfill their dreams.  I believe anything is possible.  God wants to write your own story as He did mine.”  Recently, Rudy and Burt Bacharach wrote a song to benefit the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation. 

Mentioned in the Video



Guest Info


Award-winning songwriter/producer

Written over  1,000 songs, 300 #1 Top Ten songs

Has written/produced for Julio Iglesias, Christian Aguilera, Natalie Cole, Beyoncé, Michael Bolton, Marc Anthony, Cyndi Lauper, and more

The only Latin producer named Billboard’s Producer of the Decade

Won Songwriter of the Year 5 times

Co-founder, Latin Grammys and Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame

Sits on Board of ASCAP

Wife, Betsy, since 1984


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