Co-innovator of renowned Latino record label Fania Records and luminary of Salsa’s legendary collaboration “Fania All Stars”, the incomparable Johnny Pacheco has played his final tune.
The Latin legend took his untimely last breath Monday, February 15th at Teaneck’s Holy Name Medical Center in his New Jersey hometown. Sources confirmed Mr. Pacheco succumbed to unfortunate complications of pneumonia.
Known as the “Padrino (Godfather) of Salsa”, Pacheco’s savviness and genuine love for the art of music was undeniably impeccable. One of the originators to utilize his versatility as a multi-instrumentalist blending percussion, jazz and Afro-Latin sounds to formulate the rhythm of salsa was the niche of his genius.
Born March 25, 1935 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Juan Azarias Pacheco Knipping was son to Rafael Azarias Pacheco, leader and Clarinetist of 1930’s prominent Dominican symphony “Orquesta Santa Cecilia” and Octavia Knipping Rochet, descendant of French, German and Dominican lineage. Johnny was taught the world of music from childhood.
After relocating to New York with his family in the late 1940’s, Pacheco attended the prestigious Julliard School where he further studied percussion and later began playing with noted bands linking to greats Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Xavier Cugat.
In 1958, continuing to construct his craft, he joined up with pianist Charlie Palmieri recording their Latin-Jazz album “Easy Does It” and subsequently forming their Charanga (brass band) “La Duboney” a year later which was short lived due to creative differences but fueled Pacheco to venture independently.
In 1960, he coordinated his signature brass band orchestra “Pacheco y Su Charanga” landing his first recording contract with Alegre Records and releasing their debut album which sold 100,000 copies its initial year making it a overnight success as one of his many best selling albums.
That juncture paved the groundwork to some of Pacheco’s greatest developments notably the birth of Fania Records, co-founded with friend and business partner Jerry Masucci, and the world-class ensemble of the Fania All-Stars linking Salsa’s elite heavyweights Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades just to name a few.
Johnny’s outstanding expertise further carried in his enchantment of jazz collaborating with top notch hitters Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Sammy Davis Jr, Stevie Wonder and countless others.
Within his illustrious over fifty-year career, his numerous accolades including Latin Hall of Fame Inductee, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) Lifetime Achievement recipient, nine Grammy nominations and, ten Gold records, this composer, producer, bandleader and extravagant musician innovated the Latin music industry for limitless generations, a true pioneer at his best.
Johnny Pacheco is survived by his wife Maria Elena, daughters Norma, Joanne and sons Elis and Philip.