Musician, composer, arranger, singer, trombone player, political and social activist and above all: salsero!
William Anthony Colón Román was born on April 28th, 1950 in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents and grandparents. He started playing the trumpet from a very young age, later switching to the trombone. When he was only 15 years old, he signed to Fania Records and by the time he was 17 he already had recorded his first album, selling more than 300,000 copies. (To this day, he still holds, with Rubén Blades, the record in sales in the genre having sold more than 30 million records worldwide).
His first album, El Malo brought to the world this Bronx sound. An urban music influenced by Latin Rhythms and the city itself, salsa has influenced Latin Jazz and Latin jazz has been influenced by salsa and it was particularly clear on his album. Let´s take a moment to let the fact that he was 17 years old when he recorded this.
WILLIE WHOPPER – WILLIE COLON
Colón continued releasing albums and became an instrumental figure in the salsa world, working with other talented musicians like Hector Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Rubén Blades, Celia Cruz (with whom he worked as a producer for several albums, the famous Celia & Willie among them.)
He got his love of Latin music from his grandmother, Antonia, who would sing Boricuan lullabies to him. He learned the lyrics and he was always influenced by his cultural roots. He understood the struggle of migration and finding a new life in the middle of social injustice. His lyrics reflect this without being overbearing.
Colón has been an activist since he was 16 years old. He was a member of the Latino Commission on AIDS and the United Nations Immigrant Foundation, President of the Arthur Schomburg Coalition for a Better New York, part of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Willie Colón – El Gran Varón
He has been nominated for 11 Grammys (and has won one), has the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Grammy, 15 gold records, and five platinum records. In my case, he was the first salsa musician I liked. The first name I memorized (even above Celia). I cannot say I grew up listening to him because my house was not a salsa listening house, but certainly, in family gatherings, he was always there. And the songs I chose here showcase his great lyrics, beat, the skills he has…a true virtuoso.