Salsa dancing developed hand in hand with salsa music, emerging in nightclubs frequented by Puerto Rican New Yorkers (“Nuyoricans)” in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Just like salsa musicians created a new genre by fusing meoldic and rhythmic forms from many Latin genres, salsa dancers found inspiration in classic Latin dances like son, Afro-Cuban danzon. While that all sounds academic, one of the most salient features of salsa was that it was FUN. Salsa was party music, and dancers created a party dance.
One of the most prominent Salsa stars of the ’70s and ’80s, New Jersey-born, Puerto Rican-raised singer and percussionist Frankie Ruiz was at the forefront of the “salsa romántica” subgenre, enhancing salsa’s “spice” with passionate lyrics and steamy dance moves. His fans, who swooned over his slow, sultry sound, bestowed upon him the title, “El Papá de la Salsa” (The Father of Salsa).
Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe were some of salsa music’s truly heroic early superstars. Born to a Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx, Colón was extraoridnarily talented trombonist who released his first mega-hit salsa record on the Fania label at age 17. Lavoe was a dynamic vocalist born and raised in Puerto Rico but moved to New York when he was 16. Lavoe and Colón joined forces in 1967 and began to make music at a blistering pace, ultimately releasing 14 albums together. Lavoe lived boldly and brightly but also fell deeply into depression in the late ’70s. He passed away in 1993. Colón became a community organizer, Civil Rights activist, and eventually a professor and politician.
This is the stuff…THE FANIA ALL-STARS! In 1964, Domincan band leader Johnny Pacheo and pioneering businessman “Jerry” Masucci, unified Latin musical talent onto their Fania label. They quickly welcoming Latin legends like Willie Colon, Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe and Ruben Blades. Rather than isolate each of their superstars, Fania fused as many of its leading performers as possible into the Fania All-Stars, one of the furst “supergroups.” The revloving cast All-Stars were the heart of the salsa scene for the next decade, traveling first around Latin America, then the United States, then Africa, then the rest of the world. In this video we travel with the All-Stars back to 1972.
Let’s start this week’s search for salsa by finding one of its earliest, strongest stars. Johnny Pacheco was a Dominican band leader who was a master of myriad Latin genres, like cha cha chá, guaracha, son montunu and pachanga. In 1964 he co-founded Fania Records, which powerfully unified Latin genres into Salsa, a musical and movement that was as much a genre as it was a cultural force.
Salsa is Puerto Rico’s most danceable musical export. The musical progeny of Cuban son from which it borrows its signature 3-2 and 2-3 clave patterns, the genre may have started in Cuba and Puerto Rico but really took root in the ’60s and ’70s in New York City where Puerto Rican immigrants fused son, mambo and little guaracha to make an extraordinary new musical form. Over the next week we’re going to visit with just a few of our favorite salsa musicians. There are so many! And so many wonderful instruments to play and the “sauciest” of rhythms that inspire us to dance. ¡Vamanos!
While early genres like Delta blues and Chicago blues solidified to form the core of the traditional blues repertoire, musicians still continue to bring their own experiences and spirit to blues music. New blues genres developed in the ’70s and ’80s, such “Latin Blues,” which added Latin American rhythms and interpretations Let’s end the week by reveling at Latin blues guitarist Carlos Santana shring his Latin jazz spirit with blues icon Buddy Guy. Enjoy!
“Chicago blues” developed in the early part of the 20th century during the “GreatÂ Migration,” when African-Americans from the south–including some from Mississippi who played Delta blues–moved to northern cities like Chicago in search of work. While early Chicago blues musicians played their acoustic guitars and harmonicas on street corners, South Side clubs (that mainly catered to African-Americans) invited them to perform inside and added microphones and amplification so large crowds could hear them; soon, North Side musicians and audiences “discovered” blues and a thriving, highly commercial scene developed. Let’s enjoy “Sittin and Cryin” performed by Chicago blues legend, Willie Dixon.
Yesterday we met the 1917/1918 Henry Creamer/Turner Layton early blues classic, “Everybody’s Crazy ‘bout the Doggone Blues but I’m Happy,” which we at All Around This World think is grand. Sing along with me to our slightly-shortened version:
Ev’ry body’s crazy ‘bout the doggone blues, but I’m happy, whew so happy
Ev’ry body’s crazy, but if I must choose, no doggone blues for mine.
I get plenty to eat, never have to worry
Shoes on my feet, I don’t have to hurry
Ev’ry body’s crazy ‘bout the doggone blues but I’m happy all the time.
By 1917 the Blues had become a well-known musical craze, famous for its passionate, sorrowful laments. Henry Creamer and Turner Layton, two of the most succsesful African-American songwriters of the time, decided to put their own twist on the genre with, “Everybody’s Crazy ‘bout the Doggone Blues but I’m Happy.” In the song they referenced the genre’s trademark sadness to differentiate it in their lyric: “Blues ain’t nothin’ but the easy goin’ heart disease, Brother stop your moanin’ Blues can’t make you warmer if you’re bound to freeze, Sister stop your groanin’, Why don’t you rise and shine, Take dem blues right off your mind….” Let’s hear the most popular version, performed by Marion Harris.