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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

An eye on home: Grammy winner Jon Secada plans 1st trip to Cuba in 35 years

Jon Secada, who was born in Havana, left Cuba at age 8 with his parents. Jon Secada, who was born in Havana, left Cuba at age 8 with his parents.

Jon Secada s slate gray shirt with the word Freedom across the front in white script captured the symbolic essence of an upcoming trip to his homeland of Cuba.

The two-time Grammy-winning singer, whose self-titled album in 1992 ignited his career, will make a 24-hour emotional journey next Friday to Guantanamo Bay to perform.

Secada, who was born in Havana, left Cuba at age 8 with his parents. He said his father was a political prisoner there. When his family settled in Miami, his parents ran a coffee shop.

[Cuba] is the place of my roots, said the 43-year-old artist who was in Toledo yesterday as part of a six-city Ohio promotional tour.

Spiritually, when I return, I ll have that feeling of being back on Cuban soil even though I don t remember that much because I was a child when we left. I appreciate my freedom very much, said Secada, who has been married for eight years and is the father of daughter Mikaela, 6, and son Jon, 3.

The singer, who still lives in Miami, catapulted onto the pop and Latin music scene 13 years ago when his debut album sold 6 million copies worldwide and was certified triple platinum more than 3 million copies sold in the United States.

Prior to solo fame, he got his start performing with Miami Sound Machine. He also co-wrote and sang background on Coming Out of the Dark, Gloria Estefan s No. 1 hit from her 1991 Into the Light album.

Secada is excited about the Oct. 25 release of his first album in three years, Same Dream, on Big 3 Records. Tracks include a tribute to Hall and Oates entitled My Baby Don t Rock Like That ; a version of Ricky Martin s She s All I Ever Had, which Secada wrote, and his version of Coming Out of the Dark.

Formerly signed to Crescent Moon Records, the label of Emilio Estefan, Gloria s husband, Secada says his split this year with the label was amicable.

They are good people and I could never thank [Gloria] enough for everything she s done for me, said Secada.

During breaks between making albums, he has written songs for Jennifer Lopez, Martin, and Estefan and has appeared on Broadway, starring as Danny Zuko, the lead role in the musical Grease; in Sam Mendes Cabaret, and in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I always knew I wanted to sing and perform. I was very introverted and shy, but I blossomed in high school. The fever of the music I listened to on the radio just overtook me, said Secada, who received his jazz performance and vocal-based bachelor s and master s degrees from the University of Miami.

In November he will be part of a USO Tour performing in Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Spain.

Secada said Ohio was one of the first states to support his work before his self-titled debut album in 1992.

When I come to Ohio, it takes me back to the days when I was just beginning and how great the media and the fans were all over this state, he said yesterday during his first Toledo visit.

Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: rsewell@theblade.com or 419-724-6101.

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