the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center,
the Arhoolie Foundation,
and the UCLA Digital Library
There are only a handful of musicians whose careers have encompassed a half century in the evolution of recorded sound, from 78-rpm discs to digital streaming and downloads. One of them is Tito Puente, the versatile bandleader, percussionist, composer, arranger, and vibraphonist. Born in New York of blue-collar Puerto Rican parents, Puente debuted as bandleader during the thrilling mambo era of the 1950s and was actively touring and recording fifty years later, still a star in the new millennium.
Last month marked the 17th anniversary of Puente’s death, on May 31, 2000. El Rey del Timbal, as he was affectionately nicknamed, was 77 and performed on stage the week before he passed away. Because Puente enjoyed such a long and fruitful career, he had the chance to record some songs multiple times, years apart.
- Agustín Gurza