Tito Puente, the great Harlem-born Puerto Rican musician known as the "sultan of salsa" and "king of timbales," died Thursday June 1, 2000, during a heart operation, a spokesman from New York University Hospital said. He was 77. "The world is richer for having known him and poorer for having lost him."
Four time Grammy Award Winner; featured motion picture performer. Doctorate of arts & sciences. Internationally acclaimed world wide performer. There are not enough adjectives to describe Tito Puente.
His hit records and arrangements have become classics in Latin music as well as popular rock. Carlos Santana recorded two of his hits, while jazz greats such as Buddy Morrow and Woody Herman collaborated with The King.
He has a "star" in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right in front of the Chinese Theater. Two colleges, SUNY at Old Westbury and Hunter College, have bestowed the King with honorary doctorates for his work in music and his help to young artists through his Tito Puente Scholarship Fund.
He also was the Latino Ambassador of Good Will receiving numerous keys to Cities nationally and around the world. But more importantly, his good will, talent and spirit propelled him to bridge racial, cultural and generational gaps. His concerts were attended by a colorfully diverse mix of people from every race, age, and religion. His fans ranged from celebrities such as Bill Cosby, to young Japanese students who watched him avidly when he was in Japan or at the Blue Note. His recordings range from collector's items classics to cutting edge hits.
His arrangements were sought after globally. His inspiration was boundless. To promoters, a Tito Puente booking was a sure sell-out. To dancers, he was a guaranteed workout. To music lovers, he was the master.
He began dancing in contests with his sister when he was only five years old. He was later known as a musical child prodigy, growing up in "El Barrio" (East Harlem). He went through the Army, studied at Julliard and was named the King of Latin Music when he beat out the Mambo King Perez Prado in a public contest of bands.
He collaborated and cultivated some of the best singers and musicians of Latin music. He accompanied Gloria Estefan at the 1994 Grammy Awards. His Scholarship Fund for talented young people has grown into a critical gift for students as well as a major concert event, which in 1994 was performed at the Apollo Theater in a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, Mario Bauzii and Muchito. He is Tito Puente, The King of Latin Music. He will be missed. Remember him through his music.