The Life and Times of the Legendary Joe Cuba
on March 16, 2011
I found this book very entertaining, and an example of a New York City Puerto Rican success story. Everyone of my generation knew someone who grew up in NYC's barrios during the 50's and 60's. For me, what kept me alive, and gave me hope was listening to Latin Music. I was a young kid who loved Latin Music and listened to it every weekend. We listened to Symphony Sid, and Dick "Ricardo" Sugar and would sit in the park, or on our stoops, listening to "our" music. Many of us "Newyoricans" didn't speak Spanish as well as our parents, but we loved the music. Then the Joe Cuba Sextette was hitting the radio waves with "Bang-Bang, El Pito, Sock it to Me, To Be With You", and on and on. At that time, you could call the radio stations and dedicate songs to your sweetheart, your friends, and even yourself. On Bergen Street in Brooklyn, Joe Cuba was "our" star. I had just become a musician at that time playing with local "boogaloo" bands. We all had our styles, but we all envied the sound of the Joe Cuba Sextette. As the years went on, I became a Bass Player of some note, having played with, and recorded with Johnny Colon on his "Merecumbe" album. It was shortly after this that I met Joe and thus began a friendship that lasted over 30 years. During that time, I played with Joe and traveled with him to Colombia, France, Italy, Los Angeles, and even Anchorage, Alaska. We had a hell-of-a-time in all those places. During those trips, I would listen to Joe's accounts of the trials and tribulations of having a "salsa" band and trying to keep it together for all those previous decades. If there was one thing I came away with, it was that Joe "enjoyed" his life! Sure, he had personal and professional problems as all artists did, BUT he never let these problems get him down, or stop him from getting gigs so we could all work. Joe used to call me the "nutty" professor because I was a Professor of Biology at LaGuardiaCC at the same time I was playing with him, but that "craziness" he talked about came from the joy, happiness, and sense of satisfaction I felt knowing we were making a mark in the Latin Music field that was appreciated by all people who loved Latin and Latin-Jazz Music. In conclusion, I just want to say that as a musician, I thank God for my association with Joe Cuba...And as an educator, I think this book will give the reader a sense of WHAT it was like to grow up in "el Barrio" and the kind of problems and stresses that a person could face, BUT more importantly, how ONE man was able to deal with these things, and STILL make a contribution to the Puerto Rican Culture of that time, and STILL have an effect on our culture today...God Bless Joe Cuba....WE MISS YOU!
With all my love and respect;
Prof. Ronald A.VanCooten B.A.,M.S.