Joe Cuba Sextet
Joe Cuba Sextet
Stickball was the main sport activity of the neighborhood. After Cuba broke a leg he took up playing the conga and continued to practice with the conga between school and his free time. Eventually he graduated from high school and joined a band. In 1950, when he was 19 years old, he played for J. Panama and also for a group called La Alfarona X.
The group soon disbanded and Cuba enrolled in college to study law. Whilst at college he attended a concert in which Tito Puente performed "Abaniquito". He went up to Tito and introduced himself as a student and fan and soon they developed what was to become a lifetime friendship. This event motivated Cuba to organize his own band.
In 1954, his agent recommended that he change the band's name from the Jose Calderon Sextet to the Joe Cuba Sextet and the newly named Joe Cuba Sextet made their debut at the Stardust Ballroom. In 1962, Cuba recorded "To Be With You" with the vocals of Cheo Feliciano and Jimmy Sabater. The band became popular in the New York Latin community. The lyrics to Cuba's music used a mixture of Spanish and English, becoming an important part of the Nuyorican Movement. In 1967, his band which included timbales, vibraphones, and the piano among its musical instruments, scored a "hit" in the United States National Hit Parade List with the song "Bang Bang" - a song which ushered in the Latin Boogaloo era.
He also had a #1 hit, that year in the Billboards with the song "Sock It To Me Baby". Then came what is considered to be his "greatest" hit, "El Pito (I Never Go Back To Georgia)". It is said that during the 1960s, while Joe Cuba and his sextet were on tour, they had an engagement in Georgia. He personally suffered the racial discrimination which was rampant in the south at that time. This experience inspired him to write the song which includes his trademark whistle. Charlie Palmieri was his musical director, when in 1988 he died of a heart attack upon his arrival to New York from Puerto Rico.
Joe Cuba and his sextet have sold millions of records over the years. On April 1999, Joe Cuba was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was named Grand Marshall of the Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrated in Yonkers, New York. He currently is the director of the Museum of La Salsa, located in East Harlem, Manhattan, New York. He is also in the stickball hall of fame. Joe Cuba died on February 15, 2009 in New York City after being removed from life support.
He had been hospitalized for a persistent bacterial infection. Cuba's remains were cremated at Woodhaven Cemetery. He is survived by his 2 adult children from his first wife (Nina, married in 1960), son Mitchell and daughter Lisa, 3 grandchildren Nicole, Alexis and Rebecca; and his second wife Maria (Married in 1994). Read more on Last.fm.
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