Johnny Pacheco Dies: Salsa Music Traiblazer And Fania Records Co-Founder Was 85

Salsa music pioneer and Fania Records co-founder Johnny Pacheco has died. Fania Records announced Pacheco’s death on Instagram Monday afternoon. He was 85.

“He was much more than a musician, bandleader, writer, arranger and producer, he was a visionary,” the Instagram post read. “His music will live on eternally and we are forever grateful to have been part of his wonderful journey.”

According to the Dominican Republic newspaper Diario Libre, Pacheco died after being hospitalized with pneumonia.

Pacheco teamed with Jerry Masucci to found Fania Records in 1964. Since its creation, the record label helped propel like likes of Celia Cruz, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, Bobby Valentin and more into stardom. The multi-instrumentalist and Fania co-founder was also a nine-time Grammy nominee, racking up noms for categories including best tropical latin performance and best latin recording.

The singer, known for a host of numbers including “Quimbara,” “Toro Mata” and “Mi Gente,” was born on March 25, 1935 in the Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic.  In 1946 Pacheco and his family moved to New York City, where he continued to foster his love for music, taking up a variety of instruments including flute and accordion.

While in New York, Pacheco kicked off his professional career playing with Gil Suarez and collaborating with Eddie Palmeri, Barry Rogers, Al Santiago, Ray Santos and Mike Collazo to form The Chuchulecos Boys. Years after meeting with other musicians including Charlie Palmieri and Alegre Records’ Al Santiago, Pacheco met Masucci to form Fania Records.

While at Fania, Pacheco recorded a live studio album featuring the label’s impressive roster of salsa musicians, who would soon be known as the Fania All-Stars.

In 1996 former Dominican Republic president Joaquin Balauger honored Pacheco with the Presidential Medal of Honor. Nine years later The Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences celebrated Pacheco by handing him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

A number of films including The Mambo Kings, A Woman’s Revenge and Born Romantic featured a number of Pacheco’s songs.

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