For Joe

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Joe Cuba- “Sock it to Me”

from 7″ (Tico, 1966)

I met Joe a few years back at Raíces Latin Music archive. He was invited to talk at an annual celebration of Spanish Harlem’s salsa heritage. Instead of talk about music, Joe told us a story. A story about how beautiful our neighborhood use to be before the days of high rents and chain stores. A story about the smell of rice and beans on the streets of 1950′s East Harlem. A story about the sounds of Machito blasting along 116th street. A story about stick ball. A story about who were were and who are as Puerto Ricans in New York City. His story, about our hood, was the story of our music.

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Joe Cuba-“Arecibo”

from 7″ (Tico, 1965)

Joe loved his neighborhood more than his music because to him they were one and the same. While many of our musicians left the for greener yards and fresher air (who can blame them), Joe saw there was a lot of beauty in Spanish Harlem. The sounds, the smells, the people, and the places of Spanish Harlem were his reasons for making music.

As a musician Joe helped put Spanish Harlem on the musical map. As a member of the community Joe always advocated for his people. For this I thank him and dedicate this entry to him. It’s a special one. These two two forty-fives are testaments to Joe’s work. One a Latin soul track (it’s true, he’s responsible for the bugalú) and one a proper salsa track, because he always stayed true to his salsa.

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R.I.P Gilberto Calderon

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