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CELIA CRUZ, 78 She never went back to Cuba after Castro took power in 1959, but Celia Cruz kept the island and its music in her heart. With the 1950s Afro-Cuban ensemble La Sonora Matancera, she combined the image of Carmen Miranda with the musicianship of Ella Fitzgerald. In exile, she became a Pan-Latin superstar, with such Nuyorican musicians as mambo king Tito Puente, cutting-edge salsero Willie Colon and the salsa supergroup the Fania All-Stars. Last year she won a Grammy for "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" ("The Black Woman Swings"), which melded Latin music with calypso and hip-hop. "I'll keep singing till God calls me," she once said. And so she did.

BENNY CARTER, 95 Musicians called him "the King," and for seven decades, Benny Carter was a regal presence in the world of jazz. He was both a fleet, luscious-toned alto saxophonist and a master trumpet player; as a suavely ingenious arranger and composer, he lent his talents to such straight-ahead jazz ensembles as Count Basie's band, to films from "Cabin in the Sky" to "An American in Paris," and to such TV shows as "Ironside." He led bands for Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, ran his own big bands (one included a young Miles Davis) and made electrifying appearances with the Jazz at the Philharmonic touring jam sessions. If he'd been great at just one thing, he would have been a legend. As it was, he had to settle for being the King.

CAROL SHIELDS, 68 When Penguin Books commissioned its brief 2001 biography of Jane Austen, Carol Shields was the ideal choice to write it; no contemporary author came closer to Austen's witty classicism and to her sharp focus on ordinary family life. American by birth, Shields immigrated to Canada in 1957; her 1993 novel "The Stone Diaries" won both the Pulitzer Prize and Canada's Governor General's Award. When she began writing, she said, she wondered "where were the novels about the kind of women I knew, women who had a reflective life, a moral system... a loyalty to their families, a love for their children?" Now we know.

COMPAY SEGUNDO, 95 It's not true that the 1997 "Buena Vista Social Club" album brought the Cuban guitarist and singer Compay Segundo out of obscurity. Segundo, a star in 1950s Havana, had already been touring Europe. Nor was he a guitarist, exactly: his muscular, stinging sound came from the armonica, a hybrid of the guitar and the traditional Cuban tres. Nor was his name Compay Segundo; Maximo Francisco Repilado Munoz got that nickname (roughly, Comrade No. 2) because he used that deep, rich voice to sing backup. Otherwise, you can trust the myth completely: that he was a cigar roller (and lifelong smoker), a rum drinker, a consummate ladies' man and, even into his tenth decade, one of the most powerful and tasteful musicians who ever strode into a studio or onto a stage.

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