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Juanes will perform for Pope Francis in Philly: 8 things to know about the Colombian pop sensation

As World Meeting of Families officials make final preparations in Rome for the Papal visit to Philly this September, its leaders have started to talk about who will be performing for the Pope the day before he delivers his public mass on the Parkway.

World Meeting of Families Executive Director Donna Farrell told reporters in Rome today that renowned opera singer Andrea Bocelli and the Philadelphia Orchestra will perform for Pope Francis — in addition to Juanes, a Colombian pop superstar who’s one of the best-known artists right now in all of Latin America.

This makes sense: Francis is, in addition to being the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas and he hails from Argentina. Here are eight things to know about Juanes, the pop sensation who will perform during the Festival of Families on the Parkway on Sept. 26:

1. The basics

Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez, AKA Juanes, has sold more than 15 million records worldwide and is a well-known pop sensation in Latin America and Europe. He’s won 20 Latin Grammy awards, and widely seen as one of the only international pop stars who saw success by staying true to his native language and not crossing over to English.

He’s basically one of the most well-known pop stars in all of Latin America.

2. ‘The Black Shirt’

In the mid-2000s, Juanes had an ultra hit called La Camisa Negra (The Black Shirt in English) that got good play in the United States in addition to Latin America. The song, performed in all Spanish, managed to reach No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100. You’d probably recognize it if you heard it:

La Camisa Negra, which has amassed nearly 40 million views on YouTube, was released in 2005 in Latin America as the third single on his album Mi Sangre and was released the next year in Europe. It actually generated some controversy in Italy (where the Pope lives) because some thought “The Black Shirt” was used to support neo-facism and Benito Mussolini. Juanes had to come out and basically say, “Nope, it’s just about a black shirt.”

3. He started in metal

The now-famous star who very much falls in the Latin pop genre, actually started out in a metal band at age 15 and drew his original inspiration from groups like Metallica and Slayer. Formed in 1987 by the guy who would later become Juanes, the group Ekhymosis dropped a few singles and quickly changed its sound to softer rock.

The group broke up in 1999 and Juanes went onto be a solo success. In 2012, the bassist of the group brought the band back together with a different lineup and is trying to get it back into the “Colombian metal scene.”

Here’s one of Ekhymosis’ songs:

4. He recorded in Los Angeles

After his metal band broke up, Juanes packed up and moved to Los Angeles to work with Latin music producer Gustavo Santaolalla, according to MTV. They began work in 2000 on Fijate Bien — his first solo album that spent 10 weeks at No. 1 in Colombia — along with manager Fernan Martinez, who’s credited for making Enrique Iglesias a star.

He won a few Grammy’s that year for the album, was named the best new artist, and his next album (also recorded in LA) Un Día Normal included a “God-addressing song” called “A Dios le Pido” that became a prayer for peace across Latin America. It ended up topping charts in 12 countries on three different continents. Several albums after that and throughout the 2000s went platinum in multiple countries.

5. He worked with Nelly Furtado

In 2002, Nelly Furtado was featured in a Juanes song titled “Fotografia.”

6. He had a song in a Disney movie

Well, kinda. McFarland, USA, which came out earlier this year, stars Kevin Costner as track coach Jim White who shows up a predominately Latino school in California, and he works with the kids to turn them from novice runners into track stars.

The movie came out in February and is now out on DVD:

At the end of the movie, as in, the end credits, it featured Juanes’ song “Juntos” which means “Together”:

7. What he’s doing now

He hasn’t had an insanely popular chart-topper since 2007, but Juanes is reportedly working on collaborations in a different genre: According to Billboard, he’s collaborated with French DJ Cedric Gervais on a new EDM track called “Este Amor” or “This Love.”

Juanes, who is in the midst of a European concert tour, is kicking of the U.S. leg of his world tour called Loca De Amour on July 28 in Bakersfield, Calif. And that means….

8. You can see him before he gets here for the Pope

Juanes is performing Aug. 20 at the Santander Arena in Reading, Pa. Lots of tickets are still available!

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