If you thought only rappers aired their beef out on tracks, think again. The feud between the two Tito’s was an epic one, but one birthed out of respect and a fierce competitive spirit that brought out the best in both Mambo Kings, laying the foundation to what was to become the Golden Age of Salsa in the 70′s. I’m referring to Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez “El Inolvidable.” Today we’ll focus on the latter, Pablo “Tito” Rodriguez.
Mr. Rodriguez was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on January 4th 1923 to a Dominican father and Cuban mother. A vocalist, bandleader, composer, and record producer, he was equally as talented as an uptempo sonero as well as a crooner. Some would call him the Latino Frank Sinatra, worthy of membership into the famous Rat Pack.
The feud between “El Inolvidable” and “El Rey de Los Timbales” began when both were featured artists at the famed Palladium Ballroom in New York City, both wanting top billing. This beef was reflected in a few of Rodriguez’ recordings, one of which is my song of the week. My favorite line of the song in which Rodriguez takes a jab at Puente is “Creistes que podias, pero conmigo no puedes, no!” “You thought you could, but you can’t with me, no!” Basically, he’s telling Puente that he can’t compete even though he thought he could. Was he right? That’s up to you to decide. Personally, I think there were no winners. It was an intense rivalry that probably went overboard on a few occasions, but both will be remembered as two of the three original Mambo Kings (the third being Machito) and pioneers of what was to become a musical revolution and the birth of salsa. Enjoy!