Born Humberto Nieves on June 4, 1958 in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Nieves became one of the leading salseros of the 1980's and the early part of the 1990's and was widely known as the "Pavarotti of salsa" because of his clear and powerful voice.
As a young child, Nieves moved with his family to New York City where he grew up immersed in a family of musicians; his father and uncle were musicians and composers. Nieves, of course, followed suit, studying drums, guitar and bass guitar.
His professional music career started as a vocalist in 1975 with the Orquesta Cimarrón, replacing the great singer Rafael De Jesus. Nieves then went on to work with Hector LaVoe, singing backup vocals, followed by his recording debut in 1978 as lead vocalist with noted Puerto Rican composer Johnny Ortiz and his band, Taibori.
The next year, Nieves was lead vocals on Julio Castro's debut album with his band, Orquesta La Masacre and co-founded a band called Conjunto Clásico together with Ramón Rodríguez and Raymond Castro. The band performed in the traditional conjunto style throughout the New York area as well as Latin America, capitalizing on the distinctive sound of Nieves and the chorus. Nieves helped to record eight of the band's next albums until he left to record solo for RMM Records.
Nieves recorded his first solo album, Classic in 1988, which went gold. Nieves had even greater success with his next album, Yo Quiero Cantar, which was released in 1989 and also went gold. The album contained the hit song "I'll Always Love You" which was the first salsa song in English to hit the top of the charts in Puerto Rico as well as some markets in the United States.
In 1990, Nieves performed at the New York Salsa Festival and released his third album, Dejame Vivir followed the next year and sold platinum. His Rompecabezas album saw yet more salsa in English; a formula that was quite successful for Nieves. Perhaps it is no surprise that shortly later, Nieves released an album of salsa entirely in English: I Like It Like That, in 1997. In its wake, Nieves got great mainstream exposure and led to a performance together with Stevie Wonder on the nationally televised Alma Awards show.
Nieves followed up with recording Dale Cara a la Vida in 1998 and Clase Aparte, in 1999, songs that blend the best of pop, salsa, and R&B. ~ Music of Puerto Rico