If the name Joe Cuba doesn’t ring any bells, that’s probably because you were born after the 1960’s when the legendary Nuyorican bandleader was dubbed the Father of Latin Boogaloo. And for those of you that don’t know what style of music that is, it’s a fusion of R&B and son montuno. Cuba died last year at the age of 78 but that doesn’t mean his spirit and sound did as well.
Thanks to the rebirth of Fania Records, we can get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the musician through the upcoming release Joe Cuba: A Man and his Music—El Alcalde del Barrio (out Feb. 23), a two-disc compilation with recordings never released in album form.
My personal favorite, also his biggest hit, is “Bang Bang,” a groovy tune with some catchy lyrics (“Cornbread, hog maw and chitterlings/ Cuchi cuchi cuchi”). Listening to it makes me want to do my hair in a high beehive, throw on some pointy-toed heels and get dancing.
Here’s a Joe Cuba primer in video form: