Pianist and composer.
Rubén González was born on May 26, 1919 in Encrucjada, a town of the former count in Las Villas (today Villa Clara), located in the central region of Cuba. When he was 7 years old, he began receiving piano lessons at home. Later on, he began studying at Cienfuegos Conservatory under the guidance of Amparo Riso and in 1934, only with 15 years old, he obtained the title of Pianist.
Afterwards, he attended the Faculty of Medicine, with the idea of working as a doctor and having music as a hobby. However, this last passion prevailed. In 1941 he quitted medicine, moved definitively to Havana and began playing the piano accompanying great artists like the bolero singer Orlando Vallejo and Paulina Álvarez, known "The danzonete queen"in Cuba, and also performing together with Raúl Planas and Mongo Santamaría. Then he joined the "America" Orchestra.
In less than one year, Rubén González was also member of Arsenio Rodríguez´s E nsemble, with which he made his first record in 1943. Arsenio taught him the secrets of the Cuban clave and gave him wise musical advices, which he followed until his last performances.
During this period, he developed a peculiar style of playing the instrument and became famous for his masterful and elegant performances of popular genres, namely his piano solos. When defining his style, Rubén González himself stated: "I love rich harmonies, not so complicated, but fully realized".
Later on, he split from Arsenio Rodríguez´s orchestra to visit Panama and Argentina together with a group of some other former musicians of this orchestra, now under the name of "Las Estrellas Negras". Back in Havana, he joined Senén Suárez group to perform at night centers, including the famous Tropicana cabaret, and then a jazz group.
Early in 1960´s, Rubén González joined the Orchestra of Enrique Jorrín, the founder of cha cha chá, and for more than 25 years they successfully spread this and other Cuban musical genres across the world. In mid 1980´s, after Master Jorrín´s death, Rubén González became director of the orchestra. Shortly after Master Jorrín´s death, Rubén Gonzáez retired from music due to severe arthrosis.
In 1996, Juan de Marcos González asked him to join Buena Vista Social Club project, winner of a Grammy award the following year. This way, Rubén González (together with the great Omara Portuondo, Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Pío Leyva and others) was splendidly back in the international scenarios. Afterward he participated in the recording of "A toda Cuba le gusta" and made two popular phonographic productions of his own, "Presentando a Rubén González" and "Chanchullo", where he revived themes like "Siboney", by Ernesto Lecuona; "The Cumbanchero", by Rafael Hernández and "Almendra", by Abelardo Valdés. He also included some of his compositions, such as "La lluvia", "Melodía del río" and "Como me siento yo."
According to Cuban music experts, Rubén González, Pedro Jústiz "Peruchín" and Lilí Martínez were the three pianist who created the later Cuban sonority by developing mambo and using modern jazz harmonies. Likewise, Rubén González is also considered as one of the few representatives of the "piano con moña" or in counter-tempo style, described as a sort of Cuban funky who is already an important part of Latin music.
Danilo Orozco, an outstanding Cuban musicologist, analyzing the importance of Rubén González's legacy, said: "In Rubén, a number of styles, ways of playing and projections merged in Cuban popular music, not only because of him, but also because of others piano stars like him. He had a very special way of phrasing, creating rhythmic patterns, and associating musical elements (") he created patterns still followed in popular music (") Rubén González's influence goes beyond the Buena Vista Social Club recording, which made him internationally famous in 1997."
In Cuba, his countless acknowledgments include the Félix Varela Medal, as a tribute to his lifetime work.
Shortly before his death, he could not leave his bed.. He died in Havana on December 8, 2003, at the age of 84.