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Bang Bang


Stylish Dinosaur
Nov 30, 2004
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Beep Beep?


Stylish Dinosaur
Mar 9, 2006
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Can't say I was familiar with Cuba, but it sounds like he was a great musician. I've been meaning to post this---another great drummer who passed away recently. Louie Bellson, RIP. Can't imagine the memories this guy had, having played with Goodman/Ellington/Dorsey! http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/ar...ref=obituaries


Stylish Dinosaur
Nov 30, 2004
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Mourning Joe Cuba, a Bandsman Whose Legacy Was Joy

Published: February 19, 2009
For the first time anyone could remember — or even comprehend — the sight of Joe Cuba brought people to tears. For more than half a century, this conga-playing son of El Barrio fronted bands whose music was relentless, hip and happy.

But there was no joy on East 116th Street in Manhattan on Wednesday, at least not at first sight of Joe, laid out in his coffin in a black tuxedo, white gloves and a gray homburg. Here was the father of the Latin boogaloo, a fusion of Latin and soul music that made him a crossover king in the late 1960s, when Marc Anthony wasn’t even old enough to play with Weebles, much less a band.

His death on Sunday hit East Harlem hard. He was a local legend — born Gilberto Miguel Calderón 78 years ago — who stayed true to his Barrio and close to his fans. The famous, infamous and ordinary all braved the rain to pay their respects at the Ortiz Funeral Home.

“His Barrio was his people,” said his wife, Maria Calderón. “He was born here. He lived here. He loved here. And he died here.”

And so was his wake. “He didn’t want this to be in the 80s where it would be a circus. He wanted it here. This is where his people can see him,” Ms. Calderón said.

Outside, people huddled under the awning to escape the rain.

“I’m going to see him,” said Juan Nieves. “A friend of mine died, too, and I’m going to see her inside. But I have to see him. His music was the best from the ’60s. His sextet was the ultimate. They had all the songs. ‘Oye, ese pito!’ ”

Hey, that whistle! That was the first line to “El Pito,” which was always followed by five quick toots.

In the mid-’60s those five notes heralded an emerging musical movement. From El Barrio to the South Bronx, hipsters in knit shirts and Caesar haircuts went around whistling, clapping and singing, “I’ll never go back to Georgia! I’ll never go back!” Of course, the farthest south most of these guys had ever been was Delancey Street to buy their Playboy loafers.

The song’s signature chorus is taken from Dizzy Gillespie’s introduction to “Manteca.” The classic whistled opening gives way to handclaps, a Latin-tinged piano line, frenetic vibraphone playing and maniacal laughter.

Its bilingual lyrics and urban attitude presaged the boogaloo craze. The distinctly New York musical form Joe Cuba helped birth reflected neighborhood bonds between Puerto Ricans and blacks.

“It was cha-cha with a backbeat,” said Juan Flores, a professor of Latino studies at New York University. “The thematic core was the cultural interaction between African-Americans and Puerto Ricans. It was the music of a new generation of Nuyoricans, and Joe Cuba symbolized the emergence of that generation, steeped in the Cuban sound, but also in doo-person of Italian descent and soul music.”

That hit spurred songs by others, like Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like It Like That,” and Johnny Colón’s “Boogaloo Blues.” Yet by decade’s end boogaloo was on the decline, derided by more traditional musicians and overtaken by salsa. But Joe Cuba Sextet played on.

At the wake, band leaders like Larry Harlow and Joe Bataan reminisced about gigs and songs. Joe Gaines, a longtime D.J. and friend, walked into the chapel with a bit of bluster, but stopped at the open coffin, fell to his knees and cried.

“He was my compadre,” he said. “Me, him and Tito used to hang out all weekend. I’ve known him since I was 22. You think 50 years is enough? This is the last guy from El Barrio.”

He went back to the coffin, leaned over and kissed his friend on the cheek.

“Stay strong, stay strong,” Ms. Calderón implored the visitors. “I’m walking this path with you. Give me your strength. Don’t cry on me.”

They did. Though not for long.

More people crowded into the funeral parlor, past another wake in an adjoining chapel. As the buzz grew, the other mourners closed the door. By early evening, the musicians gathered before Joe’s coffin and started playing. Ms. Calderón threw her arms in the air and smiled.

Outside, a jam-packed crowd started clapping, dancing and whistling, becoming ecstatic when the combo started into “Bang Bang,” with its piano vamps and beep-beeps.

“Come and get it, baby!” yelled a man in the crowd. “Come and get it!”

Ms. Calderón shared a microphone with Mr. Gaines, and both belted out the lyrics.

“Cornbread, hog maws and chitlins,” they sang. “Comiendo cuchifritos!”

“Lechón!” shouted someone else. “Lechón!”

As this joyful insanity swept the crowd, three middle-aged women with sad faces and clenched hands emerged from the other wake. As the music washed over them, their stiffness melted, as they slowly began to sway their shoulders and clap.

Once again in his beloved barrio, Joe Cuba’s music made people happy.

Real happy.

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