Published Feb 17, 2009Joe Cuba, the leading figure of the boogaloo movement and one of the most popular stars of Latin music during the '60s, has died. He had been fighting a bacterial infection for several months and passed away this past Sunday (February 15) from complications. He was 78.
Born Gilberto Miguel Calderón in New York City, Cuba enjoyed a number one single in 1966 with the million-selling "Bang Bang," which kicked off the short-lived but influential boogaloo craze. Boogaloo combined Puerto Rican and Cuban musical elements with soul, rock and English lyrics, and was played by smaller bands such as Cuba's.
Vibraharpist Cuba began the Joe Cuba Sextet in 1954. The sextet was a compact unit in contrast to the big mambo orchestras of the time; eventually they would change the sound of Latin bands. In 1962, the sextet scored his first hit, "To Be With You," and three years later laid down the blueprint of boogaloo with "El Pito (I'll Never Go Back To Georgia)," partly based on Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca." He hit number one again in 1967 with "Sock It To Me Baby."
During boogaloo's three-year reign, Cuba recorded and performed at a torrid pace but his career slowed down as the salsa era began in New York.
Cuba remained an active performer for many decades and was inducted into the Latin Music Hall Of Fame in 1999.