William Anthony Colón Román (born April 28, 1950) is an American Salsa musician and social activist. He began his career as a trombonist but also sings, writes, produces and acts. Colón is considered a pioneer of Salsa music[1][2] and a best-selling artist in the genre, having been a key figure in the nascent New York City scene associated with the legendary Fania Records.[3] He is also noteworthy for having assumed the gangster image in his album covers before it was culturally popular.[4] Since the 1980s he has at times been deeply involved in the politics of New York City.[5]

Willie Colón
Colón in Houston, TX, March 2023
Colón in Houston, TX, March 2023
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Anthony Colón Román
Born (1950-04-28) April 28, 1950 (age 73)
OriginNew York City, U.S.
  • Musician
  • producer
  • activist
Years active1967–present
Formerly of

Early years Edit

Colón was born in the South Bronx in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. He picked up the trumpet from a young age, and later switched to trombone, inspired by the all-trombone sound of Mon Rivera and Barry Rogers. He spent some summers at his maternal grandmother's sister's farm in the outskirts of Manatí, Puerto Rico on the road to neighboring Ciales, Puerto Rico.[6]

At the age of 15, he was signed to Fania Records, and at 17, he recorded his first album, which ultimately sold more than 300,000 copies. The main record producer at Fania at the time, Johnny Pacheco, recommended Héctor Lavoe to him.[7]

He has also acted in films, including roles in Vigilante (1983), The Last Fight (1983), Miami Vice (in the season 3 episode "Cuba Libre") (1987) and It Could Happen to You (1994).

Colón has been a civil rights, community, and political activist since the age of 16. He has served as a member of the Latino Commission on AIDS and President of the Arthur Schomburg Coalition for a Better New York, member of the board of directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.[8] In 1995, Colón became the first person of color to serve on the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) national board, replacing Stephen Sondheim, and was also a member of the ASCAP Foundation.[9][10]

Music career Edit

Beyond the trombone, he has also worked as a composer, arranger, and singer, and eventually as a producer and director. Combining elements of jazz, rock, and salsa, his work incorporates the rhythms of traditional music from African descendants in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, representing mostly a one-way flow from Puerto Rico to the New York-based diaspora.[11] "His life and music commute back and forth between his home turf in the Bronx and his ancestral Puerto Rico, with more than casual stop-offs in other musical zones of the Caribbean."[11] Colón "makes the relation between diaspora and Caribbean homeland the central theme of his work," particularly in his 1971 Christmas album, Asalto Navideño.[11] The lyrics and music of the songs on this album "enact the diaspora addressing the island culture in a complex, loving but at the same time mildly challenging way."[11][12]

On July 12, 2018, Willie Colón became the first Latin artist to perform at Paris' Bataclan theater after the 2015 terrorist attack.

He went on to have many successful collaborations with other salsa musicians and singers, such as Ismael Miranda, Celia Cruz, Soledad Bravo, and singer-songwriter Rubén Blades.[13] On his website, Colón claims to hold the "all time record for sales in the Salsa genre, [having] created 40 productions that have sold more than thirty million records worldwide."[14]

One significant overarching theme in Colón's music, which draws from many cultures and several different styles, is an exploration of the competing associations that Puerto Ricans have with their home and with the United States. He uses his songs to depict and investigate the problems of living in the United States mainland as a Puerto Rican,[15] and also to imply the cultural contributions that Puerto Ricans have to offer.[11]

In May 2007, Colón sued Ruben Blades for breach of contract. This led to a series of suits and countersuits that lasted over five years. A book titled "Decisiones" detailing the inside story of the legal battle was written by Blades' former agent, Robert J. Morgalo, and published in 2016 in both English and Spanish website. The court documents can be read here and full transcripts of depositions and court rulings can be seen here

Colón released two singles, "Amor de Internet" and "Corazón Partido", to promote for his album El Malo Vol II: Prisioneros del Mambo.[16] In 2016, Colón began his 50th Anniversary Tour. In 2017, Colón announced his upcoming book titled Barrio de Guapos (The Secret Life of Willie Colón) and the launching of his record label Willie Colon Presents.[17] For 2018 Colón kicked off his "Rumba Del Siglo" (Jam of the Century) World Tour performing in U.S., Latin America and Europe to mostly sold-out venues. Because of the great success of his last tour, Colón will continue "Rumba Del Siglo 2019" (Jam of the Century 2019).

Politics Edit

Willie Colón accompanies Mayor David Dinkins during 1992 Washington Heights riots.

Colón campaigned, and later became a special assistant and spokesperson for, New York City Mayor David Dinkins from 1989 to 1993.[18]

In 1994, in his first political run, Colón challenged Representative Eliot Engel for the Democratic party primary for New York's 17th congressional district. He was defeated, 62% to 38%.

In 2001, Colón ran for New York City Public Advocate, receiving 101,393 votes.[19]

Colón served for 12 years as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's representative advisor and liaison to the Latin Media Entertainment Commission.[20]

On April 16, 2008, Colón announced his endorsement of U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.[21]

On April 25, 2010, Colón appeared at The National Mall for The Earth Day Climate Rally, along with Sting, John Legend, The Roots, Jimmy Cliff, Passion Pit, Bob Weir, Joss Stone, Robert Randolph, Patrick Stump, Mavis Staples, Booker T, Honor Society and Tao Rodríguez-Seeger.

In 2012 and 2013, Colón campaigned against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and the left-wing Bolivarian Revolution. Chávez responded scathingly to Colón via Twitter.[22] After Chávez' death, Willie Colón endorsed opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, vigorously using social media and composing a campaign theme, "Mentira Fresca"[23] (or "fresh lies", which became the nickname of regime's candidate, Nicolás Maduro); the song went viral throughout Latin America, garnering millions of plays and downloads. Colón continued to be active in Venezuelan politics, having pressed for the release of journalist Leocenis García,[24] and the release of political prisoner General Antonio Rivero.[25]

Undersheriff Joseph Yasinski swears in Deputy Sergeant William A. Colón to Deputy Lieutenant

On May 26, 2014, after graduating from Westchester County Police Academy, Colón was sworn in as a Deputy Sheriff for the Department of Public Safety. On December 13, 2017, Colón became a Deputy Lieutenant.

Colón in uniform as a Deputy Lieutenant

Awards and honors Edit

In addition to serving as a visiting professor and receiving honorary degrees for music and humane letters at various universities, in 1991, Colón received Yale University's Chubb Fellowship.[26]

In 1999, Colón was a member of the Jubilee 2000 delegation to the Vatican, along with Randall Robinson of Trans Africa, Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, Bono from U2 and Quincy Jones. This initiative received Pope John Paul II's endorsement and later prompted President Clinton to forgive the US portion of the debt owed by some developing countries. Jubilee 2000 resulted in the forgiveness of a total of $100 billion to debt-ridden countries.[27]

In September 2004, Colón received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Latin Recording Academy.[28] Over the course of his career, he has collaborated with notable musicians such as the Fania All-Stars, Héctor Lavoe, Rubén Blades, David Byrne, and Celia Cruz. Siembra, his record with Rubén Blades, was the best selling album for its genre.[29] Colón was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.[30][31]

In 2006, Colón was portrayed by actor John Ortiz, along with Marc Anthony's Héctor Lavoe in the biopic El Cantante, also starring Jennifer Lopez. The movie is about the life of Héctor Lavoe and it covers his achievements with Colón as the top salsa duo from the 1960s through the mid-1970s.

In 2010, The "International Trombone Association" bestowed their Lifetime Achievement Award upon Colón. In their journal they went on to say, "Willie Colón has probably done more than anyone since Tommy Dorsey to keep the trombone before the public. Stylistically they are poles apart, Dorsey representing an ultra-smooth approach, Colón a Hard-edged roughness reportedly inspired by Barry Rogers. Unfortunately, Colón's public is largely Latino, so his music and contribution have gone unnoticed or ignored by the general press"- Gerald Sloan, professor of music University of Arkansas.[32]

On October 7, 2011, Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association[33] recognized Colón for his social and community activism and support.

In 2015 Billboard magazine named Willie Colón one of the 30 most influential Latin Artists of All Time.[34]

On May 12, 2018, The Ellis Island Honor Society awarded Willie Colón the Ellis Island Medal of Honor which are presented annually to a select group of individuals whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to the nation are cause for celebration. The Medal has been officially recognized by both Houses of Congress as one of our nation's most prestigious awards and is annually memorialized in the Congressional Record.[35]

On October 31, 2018, Willie Colón was awarded the "Lunas Del Auditorio Award" by El Auditorio Nacional.A recognition granted by the National Auditorium to the best live shows in Mexico, the award is a replica of the sculpture of La Luna by sculptor Juan Soriano that is outside that enclosure. This award is transmitted by Televisa, TV Azteca, Channel 22 of the Ministry of Culture and Channel Eleven of the National Polytechnic Institute.[36]

Willie Colón seriously Injured in Motor Home Crash

On April 20th, 2021, Willie Colón and wife Julia were involved in life-threatening motor home accident in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Tuesday. This according to a statement issued by a spokesperson for El Malo, Inc., Colón’s recording company.

“The Colóns were pulled from the wreckage and taken to a local hospital,” said Neil McCarty, Director of Communications at El Malo.

Colón’s condition required transport to the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, a level one trauma enter, in Norfolk, Virginia. Injuries included head trauma with concussion, lacerations to the scalp that required 16 staples, and fractures to his C1 cervical vertebra. He is in serious but stable condition.

Mrs. Colón’s injuries included lacerations and contusions. She was treated and released from the Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head, NC.

Willie Colón celebrates 52 years of 'Asalto Navideño' Coca Cola Music Hall San Juan, PR January 14, 2023
Willie Colón en El Dia Nacional De La Salsa Orlando, FL May1, 2022

Willie Colón has resumed limited touring again at the age of 73, and has had a very good box office response with packed houses.

Colón has served as the chair of the Association of Hispanic Arts.[37][38]

Personal life Edit

Willie Colon is married. On April 20, 2021, Colón and his wife, Julia Colón were involved in a serious vehicle accident while driving a recreational vehicle through the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Colón suffered lacerations and a head injury and was evacuated to a hospital in Virginia.[39][40]

Discography Edit

Title Producer Label Released
El Malo Jerry Masucci
Johnny Pacheco
Fania 1967
The Hustler Jerry Masucci
Johnny Pacheco
Fania 1968
Guisando Willie Colón Fania 1969
Cosa Nuestra Willie Colón Fania 1970
Asalto Navideño Willie Colón Fania 1971
La Gran Fuga Willie Colón Fania 1971
El Juicio Willie Colón Fania 1972
Asalto Navideño Vol. ll Willie Colón Fania 1972
Crime Pays Fania 1972
Lo Mato Willie Colón Fania 1973
Willie Fania 1974
Se Chavó el Vecindario! Willie Colón Vaya 1975
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Willie Colón Fania 1975
Metiendo Mano! Willie Colón Fania 1977
El Baquiné de Angelitos Negros Willie Colón Fania 1977
Sólo Ellos Pudieron Hacer Este Álbum Willie Colón Fania 1977
49 Minutes Fania 1978
Deja Vu Fania 1978
Siembra Willie Colón
Ruben Blades
Fania 1978
Solo Willie Colón Fania 1979
Doble Energía Willie Colón Fania 1980
Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos Willie Colón Fania 1981
Celia & Willie Willie Colón Fania 1981
Fantasmas Willie Colón Fania 1981
Corazón Guerrero Willie Colón Fania 1982
The Last Fight Willie Colón Fania 1982
Su Vida Musical: 14 Éxitos Originales Fania 1982
Vigilante Willie Colón Fania 1983
Criollo Willie Colón RCA 1984
Tiempo Pa' Matar Willie Colón Fania 1984
Contrabando Especial N°5 Willie Colón 1985
Quién Eres Willie Colón 1986
Grandes Éxitos 1986
The Winners Willie Colón Fania 1987
Top Secrets Willie Colón WAC Productions 1989
Color Americano Willie Colón Sony 1990
Grandes Éxitos Vol. 2 Sony 1991
Honra y Cultura Willie Colón Sony 1991
Super Éxitos 1992
The Best Sony 1992
Willie Colón & Tito Puente Fania 1993
Hecho en Puerto Rico Willie Colón, Cuco Peña Sony 1993
The Best II Sony 1994
Americano Latino Willie Colón Sony 1995
Tras La Tormenta Willie Colón, Rubén Blades Sony 1995
Y Vuelve Otra Vez!!! Willie Colón Fonovisa 1996
Demasiado Corazón Willie Colón Azteca 1998
El Rey del Trombón 1998
Mi Gran Amor Sony 1999
Guerrero de Corazón 2000
Idilio Sony 2002
La Experiencia 2004
Colección de Oro 2005
OG: Original Gangster 2006
The Player Sony 2007
La Historia: The Hit List 2007
El Malo Vol II: Prisioneros del Mambo Willie Colón Lone Wolf 2008
Asalto Navideño Live/En Vivo Lone Wolf 2008
La Esencia de la Fania 2008
Historia de la Salsa 2010
Selecciones Fania 2011
Serie Premium: Sólo Éxitos 2013

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ "Willie Colón: 1950—: Salsa performer, producer, composer, activist". Encyclopedia.com. May 17, 2018.
  2. ^ "Willie Colon: A legendary salsa pioneer, one of the first Fania Records signings, and a cultural hero throughout Latin America". AllMusic.com.
  3. ^ Waring, Charles (January 13, 2022). "Fania Records: How A New York Label Took Salsa To The World".
  4. ^ Ramirez, Deborah (November 20, 2018). "WILLIE COLÓN, SALSA'S ORIGINAL GANGSTER". Artburst.
  5. ^ "Hugo Chávez ahora se enfrenta a Willie Colón". Elespectador.Com. September 7, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  6. ^ Hollander, Kurt (September 20, 1994). The Rhythms: Portable Lower East Side. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3408-0. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  7. ^ Izzy Sanabria. "The Hector LaVoe Story by Izzy Sanabria". Salsamagazine.com. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  8. ^ "Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute". Chci.org. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  9. ^ "LMEC Commissioners – Latin Media and Entertainment Commission". Home2.nyc.gov. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  10. ^ "ASCAP Board". Ascap.com. April 1, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d e Flores, Juan (Fall 2004). "Creolité in the 'Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge" (PDF). Centro. 16 (2): 282–293. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
  12. ^ "Traigo la Salsa". YouTube. November 26, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2010.[dead YouTube link]
  13. ^ "Rubén Blades". IMDb.bom. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  14. ^ "english section". WillieColon.com. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  15. ^ González, Lisa Sánchez (April 1999). "Reclaiming Salsa". Cultural Studies. 13 (2): 237–250. doi:10.1080/095023899335266.
  16. ^ "download page". WillieColon.com. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  17. ^ "Willie Colón aún no para de gozar". July 1, 2017.
  18. ^ Finder, Alan (July 9, 1992). "Tension in Washington Heights – Dinkins, Amid Crowd, Nurtures Fragile Peace". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  19. ^ "Gotham Gazette". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  20. ^ "LMEC Commissioner Willie Colon". Home2.nyc.gov. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  21. ^ "Willie Colón Endorses Hillary Clinton for President". Archived from the original on April 16, 2008. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  22. ^ "Hugo Chávez ahora se enfrenta a Willie Colón – Elespectador.com". September 7, 2010.
  23. ^ Natán Skigin (April 14, 2013). "Mentira Fresca, el hit de Willie Colón a Maduro – América". America.infobae.com. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  24. ^ "Pol_ava_liberan Al Periodist_06A4141611 – 2010" (in Spanish). El Universal. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  25. ^ "Willie Colón – News Blog » Blog Archive » Freed Political Prisoner General Antonio Rivero Thanks Willie Colón – YouTube". Williecolon.com. May 23, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  26. ^ "Willie Colon | The Chubb Fellowship". Chubbfellowship.yale.edu. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  27. ^ "Bono, Robinson, Jeffrey Sachs, & Quincy Jones To Meet With The Pope". Allafrica.com. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  28. ^ "Les dan el Grammy por su trayectoria" (in Spanish). El Universal. August 29, 2004. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  29. ^ "Descarga.com". Descarga.com. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  30. ^ "International Latin Music Hall of Fame Announces Year 2000 Inductees". March 1, 2000. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  31. ^ Roiz, Jessica (May 14, 2019). "Ivy Queen & Willie Colon Among 2019 Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame Honorees". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 19, 2018. Retrieved July 19, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association". Whlea.com. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  34. ^ "The 30 Most Influential Latin Artists of All Time". Billboard. April 28, 2015.
  35. ^ "The Ellis Island Medalist of 2018". Neco.org. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  36. ^ "Las Lunas del Auditorio 2018: En Vivo y En Directo". Milenio.com. October 31, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  37. ^ "Association of Hispanic Arts". Latinoarts.org. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  38. ^ "Association of Hispanic Arts on NYC GOV Website". Home2.nyc.gov. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  39. ^ "Willie Colón y su esposa sufren accidente en Carolina del Norte: lo reportan "grave pero estable"". CNN (in Spanish). April 26, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  40. ^ "¡Willie Colón y su esposa sufren gravísimo accidente automovilístico!". People en Español (in Spanish). April 25, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.

External links Edit