Monday, February 16, 2009

Joe Cuba (1931-2009)

NYC salsa band leader Joe Cuba dies at 78

By Laura N. Perez Sanchez, Associated Press Writer

SAN JUAN — Salsa band leader Joe Cuba, dubbed the "Father of Latin Boogaloo" for weaving a fluid, bilingual mix of musical influences, died Sunday in New York City, a member of his group said. He was 78.

The musician, a friend and contemporary of the late salsa giant Tito Puente, died from complications of a persistent bacterial infection at Mount Sinai Medical Center a day after doctors disconnected his life support, said Cheo Feliciano, a longtime friend and singer in the Joe Cuba Sextet. Cuba had fought the infection for several years.

Born Gilberto Calderon in 1931 in New York to a family from Puerto Rico, the band leader and conga player helped change the sound of salsa in the 1960s, Feliciano said.

Until then, most popular salsa had been played by orchestras, he said. But Cuba led a six-member band with three singers who also played percussion and danced a routine.

"He had a dynamic group," with a signature vibraphone-fronted sound that "caused a craze because it was different," Feliciano said. Albums such as 1966's Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push incorporated elements of salsa, Latin jazz and R&B and featured lyrics in both English and Spanish.

Cuba, whose musical career took him on world tours, was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame and became director of the International Salsa Museum in New York's East Harlem.

In his 70s, he was confined to a sick bed for three years after contracting a staph bacterial infection while being treated for asthma at a hospital. After care in hospitals, a nursing home and at his New York home, he resumed performing in 2006.

Feliciano said he spoke to Cuba by telephone from Puerto Rico just before Cuba died.

"I told him that God has a mission for all of us, and when we've come to the end of the mission, we have to go to the place we came from," said Feliciano, who debuted as a singer in the sextet in 1957.

The band leader's remains are expected to be interred in Puerto Rico.


Anonymous said...

Your posts are to long.

Anonymous said...


Comb & Razor said...

I apologize.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this timely blog. He's one of the greatest.

Comb & Razor said...

Indeed he was!

Africolombia said...


Cuba for several years by fighting bacteria that initially no one knew where I was staying, but then the doctors confirmed that he was in a hip prosthesis that was implanted andalusia salsero after a fall.

Feliciano told that, shortly before the heart stops beating Cuba, he asked the family to allow him to say over the phone, since it is in Puerto Rico preparing an upcoming trip to Switzerland.

"I told him that God has a mission with us all and which, when reaching the end of that mission, we gotta go to where we came from," said Feliciano in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Feliciano, who debuted in 1957 as vocalist with the Joe Cuba Sextet, used the opportunity to thank the musician, whose name was Gilberto Calderon, the opportunity to mark his musical career forever.

"I told him we are grateful for every opportunity that God gave us, and should feel safe and prepare for the transition," he said.

Comb & Razor said...

Wow... Thanks for that info, Fabian! Sad stuff!