The musician, bandleader and entrepreneur Johnny Pacheco died on February 15 at age 85. In my opinion, Pacheco is one of the seminal figures in American popular music, in the same category with people like Sam Phillips and Berry Gordy.
Fania, the record label he founded and artistically directed, is responsible for a style of music that has spread around the world: salsa. This music reflects the point of view of young Spanish-speaking Caribbeans (Latinos) in New York City in the 1960s and 70s who grew up in an all-new urban multicultural environment. Such an environment was unusual then -- today it's mainstream culture.
Pacheco did it all at Fania: he co-started and co-owned the label; he produced many of the recordings; he was the A&R man signing and developing artists like Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Ruben Blades and Celia Cruz; he sold the albums out of the trunk of his car; he wrote songs; led and conducted bands; played flute and congas and even sang coros (background vocals).
This week on Global A Go-Go (Monday May 10, 3:00-5:00 PM on WRIR, for two weeks afterwards at wrir.org/listen, check your local listings for airing on other radio stations, and any old time at my podcast site) we'll rebroadcast my February 22, 2021 program focusing on Johnny Pacheco, Fania Records and the invention of salsa.