Tuesday June 8 2010, 02:00:20 PM | Posted by FaniaDigital
Together with Héctor Lavoe and Rubén Blades, Willie Colón constituted the Holy Trinity of salsa - the three artists who took Afro-Caribbean music to remarkable levels of lyricism and sophistication. If Lavoe was the movement's ultimate voice and Blades its poetic soul, Colón was the alchemist, the man who brought it all together. He fostered new talent, developed a distinct trombone sound, wrote socially conscious epics and made Lavoe shine with his slick production work. Here, Colón answers a few questions about his legendary career.
The combination of a string ensemble with salsa on the Héctor Lavoe anthem "Periódico de Ayer" is legendary. How did you come up with it?
I always made it a point to go against the expected formulas. I went to [Fania president] Jerry Masucci and told him that adding strings to a salsa song could result in a huge hit for Héctor. It was expensive and he didn't want to do it. I was so confident about it that I offered to pay for the strings out of my own pocket if the record sold less than 200,000 copies. But it was a huge hit and established Lavoe as El Cantante.
I'm sure you get asked about Héctor every day. Still, would you indulge us with one Lavoe story that is worth sharing?
Spending time with Héctor was like being in a Marx Brothers movie: we were always playing practical jokes on each other. Once I was standing backstage at the Manhattan Center and Héctor brings this totally off-the-wall, wacky guy with him. "Willie, this gentleman has some songs that he wrote and he wants to sing them for you," he says. He walked away and left me stuck with this crazy guy.
Your partnership with Rubén Blades was tremendously successful. Why did it have to end?
Our perspectives on the world were so different. Rubén arrived from Panama with a middle class education. I'm from a low income family - born and raised in the streets of New York. I'm in this journey - have no idea how I got here or where I'm going. There was never a plan. I know that this lifestyle is far from perfect at my age, but that's the way I am.
Periodico de Ayer / Hector Lavoe
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