Johnny Pacheco, who popularized salsa music in the US, dies at 85

The Dominican-born multi-instrumentalist explored with various Latin American musical designs, though he was especially enamored with Afro-Cuban categories like charanga and pachanga. He was a bandleader, manufacturer and record label head with an eye for skill, and his well known Fania Records would make stars out of Celia Cruz and other salsa legends.
Pacheco, a pioneering artist who assisted promote salsa music in the United States, died today, his previous record label and his partner, Cuqui Pacheco, verified. He was 85.
The artist’s musical education began with birth. His daddy, Rafael, was a bandleader in the Dominican Republic, and Pacheco matured playing percussion. He established his musical taste over shortwave radio, listening to broadcasts from Cuba and discovering “son Cubano,” or “the Cuban sound,” the nation’s signature category that notifies other Latin American musical designs.

When he and his household relocated to the Bronx in the 1940s to get away totalitarian Rafael Trujillo’s overbearing routine, he got more instruments, consisting of the accordion, violin, flute, saxophone and clarinet — his daddy’s main instrument.

Johnny Pacheco performs at the Paradiso in 1988.
Pacheco went on to participate in the Juilliard School, where he studied percussion. The breadth of his musical skill made him visitor gigs with numerous Latin bands in the city till he lastly led his own orchestra in the early ’60s. He called the group Pacheco Y Su Charanga, called for the Cuban ensemble, or “charanga,” that plays “danzón,” another Cuban category influenced by European symphonic music.
In 1962, Pacheco employed lawyer Jerry Masucci, an Italian-American previous New york city policeman, to manage his divorce, according to Signboard. In Masucci, a fan of the Afro-Cuban noise Pacheco assisted promote in New york city, he discovered a deserving partner. In 1963, the 2 established a record label that would go on to alter the truth of Latin music in the United States — Fania Records.

His label produced salsa stars

Fania’s increase began humbly enough, with Masucci and Pacheco offering albums out of their vehicles in Spanish Harlem, according to Signboard’s 2014 narrative history of Fania Records. He courted skill who were drawn to his New york city twist on Cuban and Puerto Rican categories like merengue and mambo, and by the late ’60s, he’d produced a supergroup called the Fania All-Stars.

Their specialized? A unique mix of Latino musical designs, mainly up-tempo, marked by strong percussion and a musical ensemble that might take the program from the vocalist.

The general public called it “salsa.”

“At first we didn’t think we were anything special, until every place we went, the lines were unbelievable,” Pacheco informed NPR in 2006. They attempted to rip the t-shirts off our backs. It advised me of the Beatles.”
Johnny Pacheco performed with Fania All-Stars like Roberto Roena, Larry Harlow, and Ismael Quintana in 1994.

The Fania All-Stars’ lineup changed over time, though its best known members include Cruz, beloved Puerto Rican salsa singer Héctor Lavoe and jazz pioneer Ray Barretto. But Pacheco was its constant. He played on records with the label’s talent, produced their albums and served as their bandleader in live concerts.

“I wished to have a business that dealt with everyone like household, and it became a reality,” Pacheco told the Pennsylvania paper The Morning Call in 2003. “That was my dream.”

And at the same time Pacheco’s All Stars were going mainstream, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and Latin Americans were establishing a new identity in the US. The music of Fania inspired many Afro Cubans and Puerto Ricans to become involved politically, political science professor Jose Cruz told NPR in 2006.

Perhaps the best evidence of salsa’s impact occurred in August 1973, when the Fania All-Stars performed to a crowd of more than 44,000 at Yankee Stadium. Attendees hung Puerto Rican flags throughout the stadium and at one point stormed the field during an especially riveting conga duel between Barretto and Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria.

“Johnny Pacheco began yelling and asking individuals not to get in the field,” said Ray Collazo, a Puerto Rican DJ who attended the historic concert, in a 2008 interview with ESPN. “However the more he stated it, the more individuals leapt in.”

The concert ended early after the field-storming but was commemorated with a live album and a documentary.

The end of Fania Records

Fania’s success eventually waned as salsa was eclipsed by other burgeoning genres, and it stopped recording in 1979. But its success signified a shift in the American musical landscape, pushing it in a more international direction.

In 1999, Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars returned to the stage, this time at Madison Square Garden. At the time, the New York Times described their style as “city music: quick, crisp and unstoppable,” punctuated by competing brass and bongos.
Pacheco was honored for his musical achievements throughout the ’90s, receiving the the Dominican Republic’s Presidential Medal of Honor and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Governor’s Award, both in 1996. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
Johnny Pacheco sings with Victor Manuelle at the 22nd ASCAP Latin Music Awards in 2014.

He continued to trip with an orchestra in the early aughts, playing much of the very same tunes he composed for his Fania artists. The “interest” powered his performances, he said.

Despite his fractured relationship with Fania co-founder Masucci and his early exit from the label, he told Billboard he was still “really happy” of the work he did then.

“I assemble a group that boggled the mind,” he told Billboard in 2014. “It’s been 50 years, and we’re still like a household.”

His Fania family remembered him on Facebook, praising Pacheco for his contributions to salsa.

“He was a lot more than an artist, bandleader, author, arranger and manufacturer; he was a visionary,” the record label wrote. “His music will survive on permanently, and we are permanently grateful to have actually belonged of his fantastic journey.”

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.