Joe Arroyo, Salsa Icon, Has Died At 55

Joe Arroyo at the Latin Grammys in 2008.

Joe Arroyo at the Latin Grammys in 2008. Michael Buckner/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Buckner/Getty Images

The world of Latin music has lost one of its greats: At age 55, Colombian salsa singer Joe Arroyo died Tuesday morning at a hospital in Barranquilla, Colombia. On the day of his death, it was announced that he was to be among the recipients of the Latin Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos mourned Arroyo's death, calling it on his Twitter account "a great loss for music and for Colombia."

"El Joe" as he was known, was born in 1955 in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. He fell in love with salsa at the young age of 15 and signed on to legendary record label Discos Fuentes in 1971. He played with celebrated bands like The Latin Brothers and Fruko Y Sus Tesos.

His brilliant music combined the styles of his native Cartagena (calypso, merengue, salsa, soca) and showcased the incredible variety of African styles that exist in Colombian music, such as champeta and porro.

Two other things come to mind when remembering Joe Arroyo. His love for the city of Barranquilla, for which he wrote an ode in his famous "En Barranquilla Me Quedo" (In Barranquilla I'll Stay).

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He was also beloved for his dedication to telling the stories of Afro-Latinos, famously in the song "Rebelión," in which he tells the story of an African couple brought by Spanish slave traders to Latin America:

"Un matrimonio africano
Esclavos de un español
El les daba muy mal trato,
Y a su negra le pegó y fue alli
Se rebeló el negro guapo
Tomó venganza por su amor
Y aún se escucha en la verja:
'¡No le pegue a mi negra!'

(An African couple
Slaves of a Spaniard
He treated them very badly,
And hit his Black woman
It was then, that the heroic black man rebelled
He avenged his love
And you can still hear him yelling at the gates:
'Don't hit my black woman!')

He died in Barranquilla of multiple organ failure.

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