Fania All-Stars

Fania All-Stars

The Fania All-Stars was an illustrious and widely distinguished musical ensemble established in 1968 by composer Johnny Pacheco as a showcase for the leading musicians and singers of the record label Fania Records, the leading salsa record company of the time.

Among the many musicians that performed as members or guests of the Fania All-Stars were, in alphabetical order:

Adalberto Santiago,
Andy Montañez,Barry Rodgers,
Billy Cobham,
Bobby Cruz,Bobby Rodriguez,
Bobby Valentin,
Celia Cruz,
Eddie Palmieri,Hector “Bomberito” Zarzuela,
Héctor Lavoe,
Ismael Miranda,Jimmy Sabater,
Joe Bataan,
Johnny Pacheco,
Jorge Santana,Jose Cheo Feliciano,
Larry Harlow,Larry Spencer,Louie Ramírez,
Luis "Perico" Ortiz,
Manu Dibango,Nicky Marrero,Orestes Vilato,
Papo Lucca,
Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez,Ralph Robles,Ramon Mongo Santamaria,
Ray Barretto,Renaldo Jorge,Ricardo Richie Ray,
Roberto Roena,
Rubén Blades,Santitos Santos Colon,
Tito Puente,Victor Paz,
Willie Colón, and
Yomo Toro.

History of Fania

In 1964, Fania Records was founded in New York City by Jerry Masucci, an Italian-American lawyer with a love for Latin melodies, and Johnny Pacheco, a talented composer and bandleader born in the Dominican Republic. Jerry Masucci later bought out his partner Johnny Pacheco from Fania Entertainment Group Ltd. and was sole owner for many years until his death in December of 1997.

Together, the men's originality and keenness for great tunes transformed Fania Records into the ultimate foundation for salsa, a contemporary style of Latin music.

Throughout the early years, Fania used to distribute its records to music aficionados around New York City, even going as far as selling their products out of the trunks of cars. But eventually good word-of-mouth and immense success from Johnny Pacheco's "Cañonaso" recording would lead the label to develop its roster. Masucci and Pacheco, now executive negotiator and musical director, respectively, began acquiring fresh and creative NYC artists like Bobby Valentín, Larry Harlow and Ray Barreto.

Similar to Pacheco, most of these new talents were residents of the city's barrios and boroughs, that had moved to the city from their homelands and brought their music along. Thus, Fania and it's All-Stars were results of this era of musical renaissance and understanding among the countless cultures of NYC. They created tunes using a variety of genres available in this melting pot, including those of salsa, boogalu, afro-Cuban Jazz and Latin R&B.

The All-Stars

In 1968, with Fania Records garnering more acclaim and a troupe of emerging artists, Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco decided to create an ensemble of the most well-known and innovative Fania artists, a continuously-revolving line-up of entertainers known as the "Fania All-Stars".

During the 1970's, the star-studded group became renowned worldwide for their spectacular one-of-a-kind musical performances. Because of this, it is no surprise that their music was primarily captured and lives on today through a series of best-selling live recordings.

Among the most treasured of these recordings is the legendary arrangement "Fania All Stars: Live At The Cheetah, Volumes 1 and 2." The set, recorded in 1971 and produced a year later by Fania's own keyboard player Larry Harlow, exhibits the entire All-Star family performing before a capacity audience in New York's Cheetah Lounge. The volumes went on to become the biggest-selling Latin albums ever produced by one group from one concert. To this day, they are is still considered by many as the essence of Latin music.

Following sell-out concerts in Puerto Rico, Chicago and Panama, the All-Stars embarked on their first appearance at New York's Yankee Stadium on August 24th, 1973. The Stars performed before an unprecedented crowd of 63,000 spectators in a concert that highlighted the talents of Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentín, and Jorge Santana (younger brother of Carlos Santana), among others. In the days leading up to the concert, it was anticipated that the event would revolutionize the music business similar to how the Beatles did in the early 1960's. In fact, when the All-Stars returned to Yankee Stadium in 1975, they became ingrained in history. This time, the highlighted acts included Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, Bobby Cruz and Santos Colón. That year, "Live at Yankee Stadium" was included in the second set of 50 recordings in the List of recordings preserved in the United States National Recording Registry, solidifying the All-Stars as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."

Just a few months before, in 1974, the All Stars had performed in Zaire, Africa, at the 80,000-seat Stadu du Hai in Kinshasa. This unforgettable spectacle was captured on film by Gast and released as "Live In Africa" ("Salsa Madness" in the UK). This Zairean appearance occurred along with Stevie Wonder and others at a music festival held in conjunction with the Mohammed Ali/George Foreman heavyweight title fight.

In an attempt to attain a wider market for salsa, Fania made a deal with Columbia Records in the US for a series of crossover albums by the All Stars. The first project was the lukewarm "Delicate & Jumpy" (1976), in which Steve Winwood united with the All Stars' Pacheco, Valentin, Barreto and Roena. It was also in 1976 that the Fania All Stars made their sole UK appearance. They produced a memorable sell-out concert at London’s Lyceum Ballroom, with Steve Winwood guesting.

In 1978 the All-Stars released "Live," a fully-blown version of the band recorded in concert at New York's Madison Square Garden in September of that year. 1979 saw the release of "Crossover," the All-Stars' last Columbia Records album, as well as "Havana Jam on Fania," which came from an historic concert recorded on March 3rd 1979 in Havana, Cuba. The Fania All-Stars performed alongside artists such as Billy Joel, Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Stills and Weather Report, together with Cuba’s Irakere and Orquesta Aragon.

The first signs of recession appeared in 1980, when Fania suffered setbacks including an unsuccessful movie, tension from artists with unpaid royalties, and failed distribution deals with Columbia and Atlantic Records at boosting salsa into the mainstream US market. In addition, the New York salsa scene, which had always been vital to the success of the label, was gradually succumbing to the rise of merengue from Dominican Republic and salsa romantica from Puerto Rico. As the decade ended, the All-Stars recorded fewer albums together, and it was pretty visible that the genre -- and the star-studded group that propelled it -- had reached the end of its golden age.


Although the Fania-All Stars troupe eventually reached a low during the late 1980's, many of the members continued to have individual success in their solo careers. Most notably, Hector Lavoe became an icon by himself, as people became enthralled both by his music and his tragic life story. In 2007, two films about Lavoe were scheduled to be released, including one produced by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. Celia Cruz continued making hits until her death in 2003. As a matter of fact, she became more successful in the 2000s than ever before, winning numerous awards and producing some of the biggest hits of her entire career.Willie Colon, continued making hits with Ruben Blades and as a solo artist, his success reach greater hights after separating from Hector Lavoe, to this day Colon makes hits his last release was on 2007. Colon currenty works for the Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Cheo Feliciano celebrated his 50 years in Music by having a spectacular concert at the Madison Square Garden; Michael Bloomberg declared july 20 Cheo Feliciano day in New York City.

Today, only a few of the original All-Stars remain alive, as many have passed away in recent years. Nevertheless, their vigorous legacy is one that will live on for many generations. Having sold millions of records and fostered an enthusiastic following of fans throughout the globe, the legendary Fania All-Stars continue to be treasured and recognized as the quintessential Latin band of all time. Already, their music has transcended newer and contemporary genres like bachata and reggaeton. The music created by the All-Stars continues to entertain old and young fans alike, and they are as popular on the radio as they were back in the 70s. Interest in the iconic group has not declined, as albums, concerts, films and videos continue to be produced about the golden years of salsa. During their extended and illustrious history, the New York City-based Fania All-Stars have taken their provocative and stirring rhythms on a journey throughout the world, and left music lovers enchanted with a remarkable collection of memorable performances that will capture the hearts and souls of listeners for many generations to come.

External links

* [ Fania All-Stars profile]

* [ Fania Records]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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