A record store owner, an innovative trombonist-violinist, a legendary musician who became one of the best arrangers, and two of the best crooners are among those that departed our Latin music community in 2019.
Rafael Viera (January)
A legendary music store owner, collector, and producer, Rafael Viera was 84 years old when he passed. He was an influence on Latin music, especially in Santurce, Puerto Rico, where he had his store Viera Discos.
I always enjoyed going over there and talking to him. He was always available to talk to people in the store, and musicians regularly visited Viera Discos, so it was not uncommon to run into a musician there.
Here’s Latino Music Café’s tribute to don Rafael Viera.
Lewis Kahn (March)
I had the privilege to interview Lewis Kahn, and was taken aback by his humbleness. Soft-spoken and very knowledgeable, Lewis Kahn was known as the trombonist-violinist for Orchestra Harlow and for the Fania All-Stars. He also spent considerable time with Willie Colon’s band.
In our conversation, I learned that Lewis did learn to play the violin at an early age, but then took the trombone and stuck with it, leaving aside the violin. It was by serendipity that he ended up picking up the violin again.
You can read more about that and other things in my blog about Lewis Kahn.
Andy Montanez, Jr. (July)
As you can imagine, it’s never a good thing to survive a child. That it was Latin music legend Andy Montanez had to face this summer, as his eldest son Andicito passed unexpectedly.
Andicito had recently launched an album and was trying to revive his music career when he passed.
Camilo Sesto (September)
The Spaniard crooner, Camilo Sesto was a household name in Latin ballads, particularly during the 1970s. His string of hits during that decade made him such a favorite that he continued his career performing and attracting audiences through Latin America based on those 70 hits.
Jose Jose (September)
The legendary Mexican crooner rose to fame representing his country in the Festival OTI, a very honorable distinction back in the 60s and 70s. From there, his career skyrocketed into a bunch of hits that left a mark in Latin music.
A true legend in Latin music, many of these hits were later made into Salsa music. Jose Jose received numerous homages particularly in his later years, as he lost his voice years ago which forced him into retirement.
Ray Santos (October)
From Puerto Rican ancestry, the native New Yorker became a force in Latin music as a performer, but perhaps more importantly as an arranger.
His latest book of work includes Grammy-nominated albums “To Beny More with Love” with Jon Secada, and “Mi Luz Mayor” with the maestro Eddie Palmieri.
Here’s Latino Music Café’s homage to Ray Santos.
Other Latin Music Departed
I know I missed many others Latin musicians and contributors that I didn’t cover here. We’ll keep all of them alive through the music and contributions they left behind for us to enjoy. I can only hope their work inspires the next generation of musicians and contributors to Latin music.