I originally wasn’t looking to write an obituary column this month, however Latino’s of two separate generations lost two music icons, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge their passing and what it meant to me, as a music enthusiast and lover, to have enjoyed their work during various tenures in my life.
Johnny Pacheco, who co-founded Fania Records, which introduced that specific New York Salsa and Guajuanco sound passed away on February 15th. Born Juan Azarias Pacheco Knipping, in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic in 1935, it wasn’t until Pacheco’s family moved to New York City in the 1940s where his love of music began to be groomed.
Pacheco had decent success as a musician throughout the 1950s aand early 60’s, however it wasn’t until he founded Fania Records along with Jerry Masucci in 1963 where Pacheco’s “Nuevo Tumbao” was created.
Working with a stable of artists such as Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe and a host of other talented musicians, The Fania All Stars, as they were known, toured worldwide, selling out concerts from Yankee Stadium to Zaire Africa, in front of 80,000 attendees. This event seemingly brought Salsa music, back to its African roots with Pacheco leading the way as Composer and musical Arranger, improvising his dances on stage for all to enjoy.
Then on February 18th, the Hip Hop world mourned the loss of Prince Markie Dee, of the early Hip Hop trio known as the Fat Boys. Markie Dee, born Mark Anthony Morales on February 19, 1968, was a pioneer in the young genre of Hip Hop music, bringing in a new sound to Hip Hop but also being one of the first Puerto Rican Hip Hop artists to be accepted into the mainstream. Being a young Puerto Rican Hip Hop fan in the 1980s, seeing the Fat Boys in music videos or in movies, it was amazing to see someone who looked like me (and some of my cousins) rocking stages worldwide.
The Fat Boys – Kool Rock-Ski (left) Buff Love (center) Prince Markie Dee (right)
The Fat Boys, and Markie Dee, had their heyday during the 1980s, releasing seven albums, three of which reached Gold status while another reached Platinum, which was and still is a pretty huge achievement. The Fat Boys were regularly seen as a comedy Hip Hop act, almost like the Three Stooges, but they were a talented group whose acceptance in the Hip Hop world was visible in films like “Krush Groove” and in the comedy film “Disorderlies.”
After the group broke up in the early 1990s, Morales made a life as a producer for artists such as a young Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, even writing Blige’s debut single “Real Love” which was also produced by a young Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs.
Although Pacheco and Prince Markie Dee were worlds apart as far as musical genres, the loss of these two artists is felt by many, especially by those of us in our early to late 40s, as Salsa and Hip Hop music both collided for our attentions as youths growing up in the 80s. I feel fortunate to have loved. I still remember going to parties a as youth hearing Salsa music played at house parties, and at the same time, I also remember seeing cousins and friends carrying folded cardboard boxes ready to break (dance) at Beechers Boys Club on Tenth.
Although our heroes pass on, hopefully the memories we made with their music as the soundtrack never fades.
Until Next time.