03/14/2005 at 01:00 AM EST
Before the Colombian singer Juanes—a superstar in the Latin world—made one of his first big U.S. appearances in Miami in 2001, manager Fernan Martinez had to tell him to clean his dirty sneakers. "So he washed them in the sink," Martinez recalls, "and went with them soaking wet, squishing as he walked."
Once he got his feet wet in America, Juanes (born Juan Esteban Aristizabal) soon drew comparisons to Bono and Bruce Springsteen for his ability to combine rock-star charisma with stirring messages of global social awareness about his drug-and civil-war-ravaged homeland. "I want people to see the beauty of my country and to deliver a message of hope," says Juanes, 32, who has won nine Latin Grammys and just kicked off a 25-city U.S. arena tour on the heels of his third hit album, Mi Sangre (My Blood). Says his friend, singer Nelly Furtado: "His music pulls you in with the intelligence and sensitivity of a South American prized poet."
But being a dad (he and his actress wife, Karen Martinez, 25, live in Miami with 17- month-old daughter Luna; another girl is due in June) has led to less serious numbers in his repertoire. "I sing Barney songs to her," says Juanes, laughing. "My daughter changed my whole life."