Johnny Pacheco, salsa legend and Fania Records co-founder, dies aged 85

He is "widely considered as one of the 'fathers of salsa'"

Fania Records co-founder Johnny Pacheco, who is credited with being instrumental in salsa’s worldwide success, has died aged 85.

The Dominican Republic-born bandleader died yesterday (January 15) in Teaneck, New Jersey. No cause of death has yet been given, but Billboard reports that Pacheco had previously “been hospitalised for complications stemming from pneumonia”.

Fania Records, which came to be known as the ‘Latin Motown’, was set up by Pacheco and Jerry Masucci in 1963. The pair started the label selling records from their car boots in Harlem, New York.

Influential artists who released music on the label included Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano and Celia Cruz. Fania closed in the early 1980s, leaving behind over 1,000 albums.

Paying tribute to Pacheco on Instagram, Marc Anthony wrote: “Maestro of maestros and my good friend. You were there for me from Day 1, and I am forever grateful for your support, for the opportunity to be in your presence and for your amazing legacy.”

Pacheco’s regular collaborator José Alberto “El Canario” also paid tribute, telling Billboard: “What I most remember about Pacheco is his enthusiasm, his happiness. He always said that when he died, his tombstone would read: ‘Here lies Johnny Pacheco, against his will’.”

Another tribute came from the Latin Recording Academy, who wrote in a statement: “Johnny Pacheco was a creative composer, arranger, bandleader and producer, in addition to being a gifted musician and a charming performer. … Pacheco is widely considered as one of the ‘fathers of salsa.’

“During his decades-long career, he worked with some of the most prominent salsa artists, including Celia Cruz, Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe, Rubén Blades, Cheo Feliciano and Pete ‘El Conde’ Rodríguez.

“Johnny Pacheco will be greatly missed, but his music and legacy will live forever and continue to inspire music creators around the world. Our hearts go out to his wife, Cuqui, and their family during this difficult time.”

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