Listen: Remembering Johnny Pacheco Of Fania Records : Alt.Latino This week's episode examines the story of the force behind a social movement. Johnny Pacheco crafted a legacy of cultural pride and stellar musicianship for Fania Records, imprinting his own genius in the minds and hearts of generations of musicians to come in the process.
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Remembering Johnny Pacheco Of Fania Records

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Remembering Johnny Pacheco Of Fania Records

Remembering Johnny Pacheco Of Fania Records

Remembering Johnny Pacheco Of Fania Records

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/970951550/971601920" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Johnny Pacheco, founder and co-owner of the prominent Latin music label Fania Records. Courtesy of Fania Records hide caption

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Courtesy of Fania Records

Johnny Pacheco, founder and co-owner of the prominent Latin music label Fania Records.

Courtesy of Fania Records

Fania Records was as much a social movement as it was a musical phenomenon. Blasting out of New York's Latino community for almost two decades from the 1960s through the 1980s, Fania was synonymous with cultural pride as well as top notch musicianship, lifting Cuban and Puerto Rican dance music to its highest form.

One of the main forces behind that legacy was Johnny Pacheco, Fania's co-owner, musical arranger, musician, and cheerleader.

This week on Alt.Latino we're going to hear from some of the musicians who performed on hundreds of Fania sessions: Marty Sheller, Eddie Montalvo, and Johnny "Dandy" Rodríguez. I got them together on Zoom from around the country to reminisce about their days with Fania and to give us a behind-the-scenes look at Johnny Pacheco and how he became the architect of the Fania sound — a sound that literally changed music.


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Rubén Blades, "Pedro Navaja"

This week's guest Eddie Montalvo created an iconic conga part on this Ruben Blades track that is probably his most popular recording for Fania records.

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Pupi Legarreta and Johnny Pacheco, "Estoy A Mil"

There were a handful of "...and Johnny Pacheco" albums and this one features the Cuban multi-instrumentalist Pupi Legarreta, and Pacheco blazing on his five key wooden Cuban flute.

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Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco, "Quimbara"

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Cheo Feliciano, "Anacaona"

This Puerto Rican vocalist was a featured vocalist for other bands, then released his first solo album with this anthemic tribute to Afro-Latina pride and culture.

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Ray Barretto, "Ban Ban Queré"

Conguero Ray Barretto led a double life as a Blue Note Records jazz conga player while leading bands that featured upcoming young fire breathers, like this track featuring a pre-solo artist Ruben Blades.

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Fania All-Stars, "El Ratón (Live)"

This is a forever favorite, mainly because it is one of the very first songs I learned to play on timbales back when I was a teen. It features a perfectly executed guitar solo by Jorge Santana, who co-led the Latin rock band Malo back in the day. (And did you see how I didn't mention he was Carlos Santana's younger brother?)

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Willie Colón (feat. Héctor Lavoe), "La Murga"

A killer riff and Hector Lavoe's crystalline vocals. What's not to like?

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Héctor Lavoe, "El Cantante"

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Tito Puente and La Lupe, "No Me Importa"

This song — featuring the criminally under-appreciated Cuban vocalist La Lupe under the direction of El Rey himself, Tito Puente and his orchestra — oozes swing with every note.

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Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco and Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, "La Dicha Mía"

This late-era Fania classic (1980) is basically Celia Cruz recounting the list of great orchestras she performed with going back to her earliest days in Cuba. It includes a shout-out to "el gran Dominicano" Johnny Pacheco.

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Fania All-Stars, "Introduction Theme (Live at the Cheetah)"

Who were the Fania All-Stars? This extended jam on their theme song has Johnny Pacheco introducing the members of the band, each a band leader in their own right. An Afro-Caribbean musical dream team.