Singer, songwriter and producer Roberto Blades, Rubén Blades' younger brother, was born into a musical family. Their father played bongos, their mother sang and played piano, and oldest brother Luis was also a percussionist. While his older brothers grew up in Panama where they were born, Roberto moved to the U.S. when the family was pressured to leave the country in 1973, when he was 11 years old. He grew up in Miami, making that city his home.
At 17 he was working at McDonald's and singing just for the family, considering joining the Air Force. But an audition for the salsa group Inmensidad led to touring with the group, and at 18 he was signed to the Fania record label. He stayed with Fania as a songwriter and singer for 10 years, with hits such as "Ya no regreso contigo" and "Lagrimas."
But in contrast with his brother Rubén, much of his success has been writing, producing, and arranging music for other artists. In 1982 he signed with Emilio Estefan Enterprises. He wrote many #1 Latin singles, including Marc Anthony's "Muy dentro de mi" and the Grammy-winning "Dimelo." He also produced Gloria Estefan's Grammy-winning album "Alma Caribeña," co-writing 7 of the 15 songs on the album. His compositions have been recorded by Jon Secada, Ricky Martin, and Thalia, among many others.
His own debut album, Tempestad was released in 1986, followed with his second production, Viviendo, the next year. In 1997 he released Buena Hora on his own, and in 1998 he sang the role of Zorro in "Z - the Masked Musical" on cd. He won a Grammy for his 2001 album Encore, a re-recording of his earlier material, such as Tristeza.
More recently he formed the company Red Planet Entertainment to produce concerts in his native Panama, and a collaborative album with his brother is in the works.