Musical Playlist #13: Hector Lavoe

Hector Lavoe

Hector Lavoe

On June 29, 1993, we lost Salsa great, Hector Lavoe.  I remember the day he died, his fans were distraught but also celebrated his life by playing his music and dancing in the streets.  The news showed these "informal parades" on the streets of Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side on the day of his funeral.  

I was not yet a fan, but our neighbor Sonia was.  She was Puerto Rican and a close friend of the family.  I remember her crying about Hector as she stood in front of the building.  A car floated by blaring one of his songs and it only made her cry more.  It was not until years later that I truly understood her grief and adoration.

Hector Lavoe was a popular Salsa singer who rose to fame in the 1970s alongside his musical partner and close friend, Willie Colon.  Lavoe was born Hector Juan Perez Martinez on September 30, 1949 and raised in the Machuelito section of Ponce, Puerto Rico and came to New York City in the 1960s at the age of 17 to pursue his musical career.  He immediately began working with local bands eventually joining Willie Colon's band.  With Willie Colon, Lavoe achieved fame and success with songs like Che Che Cole and  Aguanile.  Lavoe eventually separated from Willie Colon's band in the early 1970s due to issues with tardiness and a developing addiction to drugs.

Still, he continued to work with Willie Colon and became successful as a solo artist with classic hits, El Periodico de Ayer and El Cantante among others.  Through it all, Lavoe struggled with depression and an addiction to drugs.  He suffered many losses and tragedies, including deaths of close family members, and used these events to inspire much of his music.  Unfortunately, he contracted HIV in the 1980s due to intravenous drug use and succumbed to complications of AIDS in 1993.

Hector Lavoe remains a legend and his music is still played in the barrios, in films and talked about by modern Latino singers such as Marc Anthony and many others.  In the early 2000s, a biopic El Cantante, was released with Marc Anthony playing Hector Lavoe and Jennifer Lopez as Hector's wife, Nilda aka Puchi.  It a cult classic film and one of my favorite movies.  Anyone who is interested in knowing Hector's story should watch this film.  I simply cannot recommend it enough.

Because Hector Lavoe is my favorite salsa singer and in memory of his death, I am devoting this Musical Playlist entirely to him.  He had such a beautiful voice, sang amazing songs and was an outstanding performer.  (Unfortunately, I never saw him perform live, but have seen performance clips online and in films.)

Because Lavoe was such a fantastic singer and performer, I am only including links to clips of his performances to some of my favorite songs by him.  I hope that you will enjoy them and discover/celebrate his talent.

  1. Periodico de Ayer

  2. Todo Poderoso

  3. El Cantante

  4. Triste y Vacia

  5. Juana Pena

  6. Mi Gente

  7. Aguanile

  8. Che Che Cole & Barrunto

  9. Te Conozco/Bacalao

  10. La Murga

RIP Hector Lavoe. You are truly missed.