meta-script1972 Was The Most Badass Year In Latin Music: 11 Essential Albums From Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Juan Gabriel & Others |
Tito Puente and Celia CRUZ perform in the mid-1970s
Tito Puente and Celia CRUZ perform in the mid-1970s.

Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns


1972 Was The Most Badass Year In Latin Music: 11 Essential Albums From Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Juan Gabriel & Others

From salsa to psychedelia, Latin musicians around the world were experimenting in 1972. These 11 albums show the breadth of the year's musical creativity — and why, 50 years on, the sounds of '72 remain classic.

GRAMMYs/Jul 7, 2022 - 02:35 pm

A pivotal year in Latin music, 1972 signified a coming-of-age. Latin music, at large, was expressing a desire to grow into something more meaningful and transcendent.

As always, Latin American countries fell under the spell of everything musical that was happening in England and the U.S. at the time: the eye-opening ambition of progressive rock, the healing fever of funk, the earnest instrumental virtuosity of jazz fusion. Perhaps reflecting a culture where individuality was so cherished, many Latin musicians absorbed the foreign sounds and ran with them into surprising, unexpected directions.

In New York and Puerto Rico, salsa became pluralistic and progressive. In Brazil, the military government’s invasive censorship only managed to sharpen artistic creativity instead of stifling it. From Argentina to Colombia and Mexico, rock delved into a singular strain of poetic symbolism, psychedelia and the adoption of a desired childlike innocence as a reaction to the stalemate of industrialized society.

Fifty years later, here are 11 essential Latin albums to treasure:

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube da Esquina

A visionary singer/songwriter, Milton Nascimento emerged from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais armed with an instinctive understanding of Afro idioms and a wide-eyed reverence to the Beatles.

Clube da Esquina signaled a before-and-after for Brazilian culture. Conceptualized by an artistic collective that also included songwriter Lô Borges and a prodigious team of musicians and lyricists, the double-LP veers effortlessly from the sweet psychedelia of “Um Girassol Da Cor Do Seu Cabelo” to the country-pop nostalgia of “Paisagem da Janela” and the hymn-like fervor of “San Vicente.” The club reconvened for a second (and equally inspired)  installment in 1978. 

Tito Puente & Celia Cruz - Algo Especial Para Recordar

Until the end of her life, Cuban diva Celia Cruz never understood why the series of sessions she recorded with Nuyorican bandleader Tito Puente between the late ‘60s and early ‘70s received little to no promotion. The duo made an attempt to update its sound to compete for the attention of young, rock-obsessed listeners — to no avail.

Their last collaboration during that specific time, Algo Especial Para Recordar boasts a punchy, adrenaline-fueled sound, as Puente selects trusted nuggets from Celia’s catalog (“Tatalibabá,” “Cao Cao Maní Picao”) and demonstrates what a fantastic arranger he was. Even the bolero “Extraño Amor” is electrifying. Not surprisingly, this evergreen classic is still cherished by collectors. 

Sui Generis - Vida

Ah, the innocence. South America fell head over heels in love with the Beatles and the Stones, folk-rock and the blues, and an entire generation of long-haired idealists decided to pick up guitars and record their own protest anthems — en español.

South American rock was stretching and expanding in 1972, and Sui Generis — led by Argentina’s resident genius Charly García — was one of its first supergroups (its career would end abruptly three years later with two massive shows at Buenos Aires’ Luna Park and a double live album.) This luminous debut is a historical artifact, and while the singalong naiveté of “Necesito” sounds a bit peculiar 50 years later, a track like opening gem “Canción para mi muerte” is melancholy and haunting. 

Willie Colón & Héctor Lavoe - El Juicio

An intriguing paradox defines the salsa albums that Nuyorican trombonist, producer and songwriter Willie Colón recorded during the first half of the ‘70s with boricua singer Héctor Lavoe. On the one hand, tropical jams like “Piraña” and “Aguanile” brim with the kind of trombone-fueled intensity that makes them ideal for the dancefloor.

At the same time, these timeless classics are imbued in darkly-hued humor and a cosmovision that’s almost disturbing in its fatalism. The songs are fantastic and Lavoe’s dense, soulful, tragic vocalizing  is unforgettable. Lavoe died in 1993, at 46.  

Novos Baianos - Acabou Chorare

The soundscapes of bossa nova are gorgeous, but the movement’s obsession with its own sadness can get a bit tiring at times. With that in mind, the young group Novos Baianos used their second album (which translates to “Enough Crying) as an excuse to celebrate the more joyful aspects of Brazilian folk.

The result is an exhilarating collection that delves into samba-rock with panache and electric guitars, anchored on the gorgeous vocal interplay of Moraes Moreira, Paulinho Boca de Cantor and the lovely Baby Consuelo (whose post-Novos Baianos solo work is worth seeking out). Opening track “Brasil Pandeiro” sums up everything that is wondrous about Brazilian music — the effortless bonhomie, the percolating syncopation. No wonder it was named the country’s greatest album of all time in a 2007 poll conducted by the local edition of Rolling Stone magazine.  

Fania All Stars: Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 1

No album has managed to capture the New York salsa explosion in all its glorious combustion — but this is as close as it gets.

Recorded live at the Cheetah Lounge in New York with a spectacular orchestra at the top of its game — every single artist, a star in their own right — Live at the Cheetah is the first installment of a two-volume epic. The album includes an explosive version of Cheo Feliciano’s “Anacaona” with Larry Harlow on piano and a simmering “Descarga Fania” with Ray Barretto vocalist Adalberto Santiago. Cheo and Adalberto are joined by Héctor Lavoe, Pete ‘El Conde’ Rodríguez, Ismael Miranda and veteran singer Santos Colón on the 16 minute-long “Quítate Tú,” trading vocal lines in mock competitive spirit.  

Juan Gabriel - Juan Gabriel (aka El Alma Joven II)

The Mexican balada movement was on fire during the early ‘70s, as young stars like José José and Juan Gabriel turned three-minute love songs into mini-pop symphonies marked by sophisticated orchestrations. Juan Gabriel’s second album was an artistic and commercial winner from its inception: a batch of his buoyant pop hooks and lavish arrangements by Eduardo Magallanes and Chucho Ferrer. The opening brass line and supple drum beat of “No Puedo Olvidar” set up the stage for the sonic delights that follow.

Erasmo Carlos - Sonhos E Memórias – 1941/1972

Most people know Roberto Carlos as the Julio Iglesias of Brazil — the best-selling artist in Brazilian pop. Only studious fans are aware of the fact that Roberto wrote most of his hits in partnership with singer/songwriter Erasmo Carlos (the artists are not related).

Even better: while breaking records with Roberto, Erasmo also recorded a series of stunning solo LPs exploring art-rock and psychedelia, folk-pop and jazz-soul. This elusive, introspective autobiographical trip is Erasmo’s masterpiece — criminally underrated when released but reevaluated in subsequent decades. “Meu Mar” is probably the dreamiest Brazilian track you will ever encounter. 

La Sonora Ponceña - Desde Puerto Rico a Nueva York

Inspired by Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, Puerto Rican pianist Papo Lucca inherited his father’s orchestra in Ponce and brought his idols’ exquisite harmonies to a rugged salsa orchestra. The combination created an edgy balance, a pungent contrast, and La Ponceña would quickly become one of the most aristocratic outfits in tropical music.

This 1972 session finds the band in a particularly aggressive mood, anchored on a tight rhythm section and the imposing vocals of stars Tito Gómez and Luigi Texidor. Opening cut “Prende El Fogón” is worth the price of admission.

Malo - Malo

The hazy mystique of early ‘70s Chicano rock — the fusion of laid-back Afro-Cuban grooves with jazzy chords and velvety vocals — has resisted the passing of time particularly well, as the elegant debut by this 12-piece San Francisco combo can attest. A down-to-earth version of the more celestial Santana, Malo featured the guitar of Carlos’ brother, Jorge Santana, as well as the percussion chops of Coke Escovedo (Sheila E’s uncle) and the expressive singing of Arcelio García, Jr. Sweet and funky, “Suavecito” is a California classic.

Gato Barbieri - Last Tango in Paris (Original Soundtrack)

In 1972, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci pushed the envelope with his new film: a radical psycho-sexual narrative with Marlon Brando as a suicidal middle-aged man. Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri, already known for his ambitious Latin jazz epics, happened to be touring Italy.

He played a few original tunes for Bertolucci, and the director selected the now legendary theme on the spot. Recording the soundtrack involved getting a piano to a fifth floor apartment in Rome, but it was well worth it. Seeped in an almost delirious ocean of sadness, “Last Tango in Paris” is arguably Barbieri’s most gorgeous composition. 

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National Recording Registry Announces Inductees

Photo: Library of Congress


National Recording Registry Inducts Music From The Notorious B.I.G., Green Day, Blondie, The Chicks, & More

Recordings by the Cars, Bill Withers, Lily Tomlin, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, and the all-Black 369th U.S. Infantry Band after World War I are also among the 25 selected for induction.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 12:54 am

As a founding member of the National Recording Preservation Board, the Recording Academy was instrumental in lobbying and getting the board created by Congress. Now, the Library of Congress has added new treasures to the National Recording Registry, preserving masterpieces that have shaped American culture.

The 2024 class not only celebrates modern icons like Green Day’s punk classic Dookie and Biggie Smalls' seminal Ready to Die, but also honors vintage gems like Gene Autry’s "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and Perry Como’s hits from 1957. These recordings join over 650 titles that constitute the registry — a curated collection housed within the Library’s vast archive of nearly 4 million sound recordings. 

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced these additions as essential pieces of our nation’s audio legacy, each selected for their cultural, historical, or aesthetic importance. This selection process is influenced by public nominations, which hit a record number this year, emphasizing the public's role in preserving audio history.

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"The Library of Congress is proud to preserve the sounds of American history and our diverse culture through the National Recording Registry," Hayden said. "We have selected audio treasures worthy of preservation with our partners this year, including a wide range of music from the past 100 years, as well as comedy. We were thrilled to receive a record number of public nominations, and we welcome the public’s input on what we should preserve next."

The latest selections named to the registry span from 1919 to 1998 and range from the recordings of the all-Black 369th U.S. Infantry Band led by James Reese Europe after World War I, to defining sounds of jazz and bluegrass, and iconic recordings from pop, dance, country, rock, rap, Latin and classical music.

"For the past 21 years the National Recording Preservation Board has provided musical expertise, historical perspective and deep knowledge of recorded sound to assist the Librarian in choosing landmark recordings to be inducted into the Library’s National Recording Registry," said Robbin Ahrold, Chair of the National Recording Preservation Board. "The board again this year is pleased to join the Librarian in highlighting influential works in our diverse sound heritage, as well as helping to spread the word on the National Recording Registry through their own social media and streaming media Campaigns."

Tune in to NPR's "1A" for "The Sounds of America" series, featuring interviews with Hayden and selected artists, to hear stories behind this year’s picks. Stay connected to the conversation about the registry via social media and listen to many of the recordings on your favorite streaming service.

For more details on the National Recording Registry and to explore more about the selections, visit The Library of Congress's official National Recording Registry page.

National Recording Registry, 2024 Selections (chronological order)

  1. "Clarinet Marmalade" – Lt. James Reese Europe’s 369th U.S. Infantry Band (1919)

  2. "Kauhavan Polkka" – Viola Turpeinen and John Rosendahl (1928)

  3. Wisconsin Folksong Collection (1937-1946)

  4. "Rose Room" – Benny Goodman Sextet with Charlie Christian (1939)

  5. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" – Gene Autry (1949)

  6. "Tennessee Waltz" – Patti Page (1950)

  7. "Rocket ‘88’" – Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (1951)

  8. "Catch a Falling Star" / "Magic Moments" – Perry Como (1957)

  9. "Chances Are" – Johnny Mathis (1957)

  10. "The Sidewinder" – Lee Morgan (1964)

  11. "Surrealistic Pillow" – Jefferson Airplane (1967)

  12. "Ain’t No Sunshine" – Bill Withers (1971)

  13. "This is a Recording" – Lily Tomlin (1971)

  14. "J.D. Crowe & the New South" – J.D. Crowe & the New South (1975)

  15. "Arrival" – ABBA (1976)

  16. "El Cantante" – Héctor Lavoe (1978)

  17. "The Cars" – The Cars (1978)

  18. "Parallel Lines" – Blondie (1978)

  19. "La-Di-Da-Di" – Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick (MC Ricky D) (1985)

  20. "Don’t Worry, Be Happy" – Bobby McFerrin (1988)

  21. "Amor Eterno" – Juan Gabriel (1990)

  22. "Pieces of Africa" – Kronos Quartet (1992)

  23. Dookie – Green Day (1994)

  24. Ready to Die – The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

  25. "Wide Open Spaces" – The Chicks (1998)

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Aida Cuevas, Natalia Lafourcade and Ángela Aguilar perform during the 2019 GRAMMYs
Aida Cuevas, Natalia Lafourcade and Ángela Aguilar perform during the 2019 GRAMMYs

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


10 Facts About Latin Music At The GRAMMYs: History-Making Wins, New Categories & More

For decades, Latin music has been an indispensable part of the GRAMMYs landscape. Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations, here are some milestones in Latin music at Music’s Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Oct 18, 2023 - 03:42 pm

The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are right around the corner — and as always, inspired Latin musical offerings will lie within the heart of the list.

While the Recording Academy’s sister academy, the Latin Recording Academy, naturally honors this world most comprehensively, it plays a crucial role in the GRAMMYs landscape just as in that of the Latin GRAMMYs — and there’s been crossover time and time again!

On Nov. 10, the world will behold nominations in all categories — including several within the Latin, Global, African, Reggae & New Age, Ambient, or Chant field. Within the world of Latin music, the awards are: Best Latin Pop Album, Best Música Urbana Album, Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano), and Best Tropical Latin Album. The Recording Academy also offers a GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz album, though that award is a part of a different field. 

Like the Recording Academy and GRAMMYs themselves, these categories have evolved over the years. Along the way, various Latin music luminaries have forged milestones in Academy history.

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations, here are some key facts to know about Latin music’s history at the GRAMMYs.

The First Award For Latin Music At The GRAMMYs Was Given In 1975

The first winner for Best Latin Recording was pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri, for 1974’s The Sun of Latin Music. Now an eight-time GRAMMY winner, Palmieri took home the golden gramophone in this category at both the 1976 GRAMMYs and the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece.

At the 1980 GRAMMYs, the first group winner was the thrice nominated Afro-Cuban jazz band Irakere, for their 1978 self-titled debut.

Percussionist Mongo Santamaria holds the record for the most nominations within the Best Latin Recording category.

The Sound Of Latin Pop — And The Title Of The Award — Has Shifted Over 40 Years  

Back in 1983, this category was called Best Latin Pop Performance. The first winner was José Feliciano, who took home the golden gramophone for his album Me Enamoré at the 26th GRAMMY Awards.

Best Latin Pop Performance eventually pivoted to Best Latin Pop Album and Best Latin Pop or Urban Album, then back to Best Latin Pop Album — just another example of how the Academy continually strives for precision and inclusion in its categories.

As for most wins, it’s a tie between Feliciano and Alejandro Sanz, at four. Feliciano also holds the distinction of having two consecutive wins, at the 1990 and 1991 GRAMMYs.

The Best Latin Urban Album Category Was Introduced In 2007

The first winner in this category was the urban hip-hop outfit Calle 13, for their 2007 album Residente o Visitante.

The first female nominee was Vanessa Bañuelos, a member of the Latin rap trio La Sinfonia, who were nominated for Best Latin Urban Album for their 2008 self-titled album at the 2009 GRAMMYs.

Here’s Who Dominated The Best Norteño Album Category

The first GRAMMY winner in the Best Norteño Album category was Los Tigres Del Norte, for their 2006 album Historias Que Contar, at the 2007 GRAMMYs. To date, they have landed four consecutive wins — at the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 GRAMMYs.

The Intersection Between Latin, Rock & Alternative Has Shifted

Best Latin Rock Or Alternative Album; Best Latin Rock, Alternative Or Urban Album; Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance… so on and so forth.

If that’s a mouthful, again, that shows how the Academy continually hones in on a musical sphere for inclusion and accuracy’s sake.

Within this shifting category, the first winner was Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, who won Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance for 1997’s Fabulosos Calavera at the 1998 GRAMMYs.

At the 2016 GRAMMYs, there was a tie for the golden gramophone for Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album, between Natalia Lafourcade and Pitbull. Overall, the most wins underneath this umbrella go to Maná, with a total of three.

These Artists Made History In Tropical Latin Categories

Over the years, this component of Latin music has been honored with GRAMMYs for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance, Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album, Best Tropical Latin Performance, and Best Tropical Latin Album.

The first winner of a GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Performance was Tito Puente & His Latin Ensemble, for "On Broadway," from the 1983 album of the same name.

Under the same category, the first female winner was Celia Cruz, for "Ritmo En El Corazón." Overall, Rubén Blades has taken home the most GRAMMYs under this umbrella, with a total of six.

This Was The First Latin Artist To Win Album Of The Year

Ten-time GRAMMY winner and 14-time nominee Carlos Santana holds this distinction for 1999’s "Supernatural," at the 2000 GRAMMYs.

This Was The First Spanish-Language Album To Be Nominated For Album Of The Year

That would be Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, at the 2023 GRAMMYs; Bad Bunny also performed at the ceremony, but Harry Styles ended up taking home that golden gramophone.

Ditto Música Mexicana — Formerly Known As Best Regional Mexican Music Album

Música mexicana — a broad descriptor of regional sounds, including Tejano — is having a moment in recent years, which points to the incredibly rich GRAMMYs legacy of these musical worlds.

The first winner for Best Mexican-American Performance was Los Lobos, for 1983’s "Anselma." For Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album, that was Pepe Aguilar, for 2010’s "Bicentenario."

The Inaugural Trophy For Best Música Urbana Album Went To…

The one and only Bad Bunny, for 2020’s El Último Tour Del Mundo. He took home the golden gramophone again at the 2023 GRAMMYs for Un Verano Sin Ti

Keep checking back as more information comes out about the 2024 GRAMMYs — and how the Recording Academy will honor and elevate Latin genres once again!

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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8 Things We Learned At The International Salsa Museum's Tito Puente & La Lupe Exhibit
Friends and collaborators Tito Puente and La Lupe

Photo: Jessica Lipsky


8 Things We Learned At The International Salsa Museum's Tito Puente & La Lupe Exhibit

Held during the New York International Salsa Congress, the ISM pop-up featured artifacts from NYC's rich salsa history. The exhibit highlighted items from legendary singer La Lupe and GRAMMY-winning percussionist Tito Puente.

GRAMMYs/Oct 4, 2023 - 09:02 pm

Salsa was born in New York City, so it's only natural that there should be a museum dedicated to its origins, influence and multifarious sounds. 

The Bronx-based nonprofit International Salsa Museum is at the center of that mission. While they don't have a dedicated space yet — organizers hope to take over a decommissioned armory in the Bronx within five years — ISM brought part of their collection to the New York International Salsa Congress over Labor Day weekend. 

Featuring art, clothing, instruments and photography, the exhibit highlighted legendary musicians such as percussionist Ralph Irizarry and singer/songwriter Luis Figueroa, as well as trailblazing choreographer Eddie Torres sr. Images of Latin culture in New York from the 1980s and '90s, from block parties to early shots of Marc Anthony, were also present. 

Yet the heart of the exhibit centered on Tito Puente, the six-time GRAMMY-winning percussionist, bandleader and producer, and Cuban singer La Lupe. Dubbed "The Queen of Latin Soul" in her 1960s heyday, La Lupe sold millions of records and was the first Latina to perform at Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. She was a friend and frequent collaborator of Puente's in the '60s. 

ISM Co-Founder and musician Willy Rodriguez went to the musicians' families to speak to them about their relative's legacy. "I get emotional talking about it," Rodriguez told "Us doing this is not necessarily just showing the history, but it's also healing for the families."

On display is one of Puente's suits — a black three-piece with a wide lapel, which he wore while performing with the Puerto Rican Symphony — alongside his bandstand, musical charts, contracts and various honors. La Lupe's music charts, photos and albums were all rescued following a devastating fire in her New York City apartment in the 1980s; some of the items bear water and fire damage. "Looking at these pictures, I can envision her going into the apartment, grabbing her kids, grabbing all these items and just running out. That's why this is so important," Rodriguez says. 

The Puente/La Lupe section of the exhibit was curated around feeling, Rodriguez adds. "It's about going out to the family, speaking to them about: What is it that we're doing? Why are we doing it? It's not about the money; it's about the legacies of these people." 

With preservation and education in mind, read on for eight things learned about La Lupe and Tito Puente. 

La Lupe Transcended Genre And Broke Barriers For Women In Latin Music 

8 Things We Learned At The International Salsa Museum's Tito Puente & La Lupe Exhibit_la lupe display

A display of salvaged items owned by La Lupe┃ISM

Born Lupe Yoli Raymond, La Lupe arrived in New York from Cuba in 1962. Already a successful performer in her home country prior to the revolution, La Lupe initially worked with percussionist Mongo Santamaría before connecting with Tito Puente. La Lupe's work with Puente predates his work with that of legendary Cuban singer Celia Cruz

By 1968, La Lupe performed as a solo artist, singing boleros, boogaloos and Latin soul in both English and Spanish.  Some of her biggest hits were "Fiebre," Qué te pedí?" and “La Tirana,” an anthem about the aftermath of a love affair. Although maligned for her sexual performances and forthright personality in the male-dominated Latin music industry, it's impossible to deny La Lupe's talent and professionalism.

At the ISM exhibit, Rodriguez points out a handwritten musical chart. "The entire band is here: the piano, the trombone, the trumpet. This is soul/salsa and all the parts are there, all original with her hand signature. That's her handwriting."

La Lupe created polyrhythmic arrangements, "putting them into sounds that you hear in R&B and pop music and soul music,” artist-scholar Jadele McPherson told "Latino USA."

La Lupe Personified Resilience 

international Salsa Museum's Tito Puente & La Lupe Exhibit_Janice

Creative Producer, Philanthropist, and Publicist Janice Torres-Perez with La Lupe albums ISM

A fierce performer with a powerful voice, La Lupe embodied a particular sensuality on stage that drew admiration and criticism. She would regularly "improvise lyrics, change styles, tear her dress up, pull her hair, moan her trademark cry of 'ayyy yiyiyí,' clutch her breasts and push the pianist to go faster and faster," documentarian Ela Troyano [wrote for]( Fania Records, the boogaloo and salsa label that acquired Puente's Tico Records.

As salsa rose to prominence La Lupe was sidelined, [the Guardian]( noted. Celia Cruz, a powerful and unique voice in her own right but a less provocative act, became the Queen of Salsa.

Still, La Lupe "never gave up. She was never fake. She was always her authentic self," Rodriguez says. "She doesn't care what people think about her. She goes off, she takes off her shoes, and she does what she does, whatever she feels.

"I've noticed that a lot of the females that talk about La Lupe like her because of her strength and her tenacity, and that's why she's important to the culture," he continues. 

La Lupe Remained Her Own Advocate For Decades

La Lupe's daughter  Rainbow Lupe

La Lupe's daughter, Rainbow “La Yoli” Garcia, with a letter her mother wrote┃ISM

Although she performed at Madison Square Garden in '77, La Lupe's career was a shell of its vibrant self by the decade's end. Her personal life was also in shambles, but she continued to stump for herself and her artistry. 

The ISM exhibit featured a form letter that La Lupe sent to promoters and club owners asking for gigs because the industry had pushed her aside. "She's writing to them in English saying, 'Give me a shot. I have a new show.' She's saying, 'I want to go back into show business,'" Rodriguez notes.

In the mid-'80s, La Lupe met an evangelist at a hospital and later became an ordained Pentecostal minister and preacher (she previously practiced Santeria). She died of a heart attack in 1992.

Although La Lupe's work and story have received renewed attention, the issues she faced as an artist with a strong perspective and style remain largely unchanged. 

"We see a lot more females in the artistic world now, but it should be more. There should be more opportunities," Rodriguez says. "She was going at it at a time where you barely saw women in salsa. Even to this very day, you still don't see many women in salsa, and that's not the way that it should be."

Tito Puente Was Meticulous — With Himself And Others

International Salsa Museum's Willy Rodriguez

International Salsa Museum Co-Founder Willy Rodriguez┃ISM

Today, Tito Puente is synonymous with Latin music of the 1950s and '60s, becoming known as the "King of Mambo." The six-time GRAMMY winner had a decades-long career, was the go-to person for salsa legends, and continued to write and perform through the 1990s. Puente was known for his work ethic, and was active in the music industry until his death in 2000. 

"He was very meticulous with the way he did things, with the way he directed the bands," says Rodriguez, who is the musical director for Tito Puente Jr.'s band. "If you were bad or did something not-so-good on stage, he would let you go and call somebody else. There was always another person that would want to play in his band."

Tito Puente Had Multiple Honorary Doctorates, Among Many Other Awards

8 Things We Learned At The International Salsa Museum's Tito Puente & La Lupe Exhibit tito awards

Several of Tito Puente's many awards ┃Jessica Lipsky

Tito Puente traveled the world, performing in dozens of countries and receiving multiple awards. His last (and posthumous) GRAMMY win came at the 2001 GRAMMYs, where his collaboration with Eddie Palmieri, Obra Maestra, earned a golden gramophone for Best Salsa Album. 

Among his many honors, Puente received honorary doctorates from Columbia University and Berklee College of Music. 

He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2003, Puente received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.

Tito Puente Handwrote And Numbered His Sheet Music 

8 Things We Learned At The International Salsa Museum's Tito Puente & La Lupe Exhibit tito sheet music

Tito Puente's sheet music┃Jessica Lipsky

Tito Puente numbered each of his musical charts and by the 1950s, was already on his 265th composition. On display is the chart for "Tito Timbero" and his timbale mallets. 

"This was one of his first original songs that made him famous," Rodriguez notes.

Puente Kept His Contracts 

tito puente's performance contracts

An appearance contract┃Jessica Lipsky

While many musicians were subject to flimsy contracts and meager pay, Tito Puente kept meticulous records. The ISM pop-up had several of Puente's contracts on display from 1965, for which the musician made between $600 and $1,000 per engagement.

"His oldest son was telling me that back in the day, you could do a lot with that amount of money," Rodriguez notes. 

Adjusted for inflation, Puente would be making between $5,800 and $9,700 per gig today.

Salsa Is A Family Legacy

tito puente jr. and rainbow la yoli lupe

Tito Puente Jr. and Rainbow "La Yoli" Garcia┃ISM

Puente’s son Tito Puente Jr. and La Lupe’s daughter, Rainbow “La Yoli” Garcia, reunited at the International Salsa Museum pop-up and were heavily involved in its curation. As Rodriguez explains, the exhibit is ideally just the beginning of honoring legacies in the way this one did.

"[Once] we share the story about the legends, how do we keep this culture moving forward?" Rodriguez questions." It's our motto; it's our mission statement: Preserving the past, educating the present, influencing the future." 

ISM's team hopes to raise enough capital to open up a museum at the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory, where they will build teaching recording studios for youth and adult producers and musicians 

"The only way we're going to move forward is by creating," Rodriguez adds. "We don't move forward by recycling the same songs; we have to create."

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