Willie Colón headlines the New York Salsa Festival with El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Victor Manuelle, Grupo Niche, Oscar de Leon, Jerry Rivera, Tony Vega, Edgar Joel, and merengueros Oro Sólido, with percussionists Bobby Allende and Marc Quiñones; at Barclays Center in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; on Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 8pm. From $84. 🇵🇷 🇩🇴 🇨🇴 🇻🇪
Willie Colón was One of the Key Players in 1970s New York Salsa
Trombonist and bandleader Willie Colón is one of the artists who was central to creating the iconic New York salsa sound of the 1970s. That was when salsa blew up and went global. His FANIA All-Star collaborations with Héctor Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Rúben Blades, and Ismael Miranda are legendary. He went on to do some acting and social work.
Colón is a Bronx Puerto Rican, and his music speaks to that experience. Back in the day, the drum never stopped, but the Bronx in that time was a very tough place. Developers wanted the land because it’s right next to Manhattan, but people lived there. So the City purposefully made it very hard to live in The Bronx. It’s frustrating because we are Americans, but were not really accepted. So if we’re not allowed to do what everyone else does, then we’ll take what’s left which is the bad boy stuff. That was Colón’s image back in the day. He was the bad boy, “El Malo” of la salsa. And people could relate to it because their lives were hard.
There are other sides to Willie Colón. Puerto Ricans love Navidad (Christmas), and celebrate it for longer than anyone else in the world. Colón captures that spirit in his 1971 Christmas album “Asalto navideño.”
Colón did four albums with New York Panamanian singer-songwriter Rubén Blades. The most famous is 1978’s “Siembra.” It includes Blades’ signature song “Pedro Navaja.” That’s the story of a neighborhood gangster modeled on the jazz hit “Mack the Knife.” New York City hit bottom in1977. The City was falling apart and street crime was rampant. But it was also a very creative time, one of those best of times, worst of times.
Nowadays he is an elder statesman for the Latin experience in New York City. It’s always great to see him, because back in the day, Willie Colón was right in the middle of it all, once upon a time in New York City. It’s fair to say that Latin music wouldn’t be what it is today without Willie Colón.
Willie Colón in New York City
He’s probably played everywhere in this town.
- Barclays Center
- Lehman Center
- Madison Square Garden
- New York Salsa Festival
To learn more about the artist, visit www.WillieColon.com