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“El Cantante” – Anthem of the overwhelmed celebrity

Flashback Friday

We’ve all heard his story many times over. Different versions, some so different you don’t know who or what to believe. His life was turned into an off-Broadway play and even a major production on the big screen, portrayed by an international superstar. Having said that, I think I’ll spare you the life story. Hector Lavoe, to a salsero is like Babe Ruth to even the most lukewarm of baseball fans. We know his life story, his trials, tribulations and the uneventful and tragic end to what was a legendary career. He was known as “The Voice”, “King of Punctuality” (a jab at his habit of arriving to most of his gigs up to an hour late), and “The Singer”, which also happened to be the title to the song in which he is most recognized for as well as this week’s focus on Flashback Fridays.

In 1978, fellow Salsero and Fania label mate, Ruben Blades had just written the soon-to-be classic when Willie Colon convinced him to give it to Hector since his nickname was already “El Cantante de Los Cantantes” (The Singer of Singers). Hector recorded it that same year and it immediately became a huge hit as well as his signature song. Ruben Blades has stated that even though he didn’t want to give Lavoe the song, the classic status to which Lavoe took it was far beyond what Blades himself would have taken it and he is now glad he gave the song up to Hector.

In “El Cantante”, the singer is telling the listener that people may pay to see him perform, but he is actually just like everyone else, living a life of laughter and pain, bitterness, and good times. A part of the song that stands out to me is where he mentions when people stop him in the street and say “You must be living the good life, always with women and at parties,” but that no one asks him if he’s suffering and crying, if he has a pain that runs deep. He may not have written this song, but it’s almost as if it was written with his personal life’s experiences in mind. A singer with a comedian’s wit when on stage, but behind the scenes, faced many struggles from drug addiction, the death of his son, to a failed suicide attempt. The song is a classic at parties which is ironic, because it tells the story of a singer forced to crack a smile and entertain the masses while dealing with personal demons in his own life. Truly one of the most bittersweet of songs and yet, a favorite of many.

About Nelson O Figueroa

The son of Puerto Rican-born parents, Nelson was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, New York. Growing up, music was a major factor his upbringing, with his mother coming from a very musically diverse family and his father introducing him to other types of music such as classic rock. He learned to appreciate all types of music although I tend to drift primarily towards salsa.

Other than music, Nelson likes to spend time with friends and family. He’s also a bit of a sports freak , you can find him cheering for his New York teams: the Mets and the Giants. You might also catch him at a nearby handball court on occasion during the summer.

Nelson has been involved with Being Latino in many supportive roles beginning in 2010 with the fundraiser for Haiti. His ability to engage others in conversation with humor and an open mind made him the ideal candidate for the role of Facebook Engagement Manager; while his love and knowledge of music makes him the perfect fit for the magazine series, Flashback Friday.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. I love Hector Lavoeee!

  2. Now That’s an anthem applicable to a lot of types of performers!

  3. Hector who? Lol

  4. Thanks it was nice to hear this song, Have a great weekend!

  5. LOL Amanda.

  6. Agreed. All that movie achieved was make Hector look like a drug fiend. It didn’t focus on his career at all.

  7. I rushed to see it on opening day. Marc playing the part of Hector? Dream come true. Turned out to be the worst bio-pic ever!

  8. The only good thing was Marc’s rendition of the song El Cantante.

  9. Love the way it started with a bolero version. If they have a full version of that. Ill take it!

  10. On my Ipod, I have this song sung by all three; Blades, Lavoe and Anthony. Each version is great.

  11. El cantante de los cantantes…

  12. I loved the movie. Made me do research and look into he was as a person. I dont think it was a negative movie, just depends on the mind behind the eyes, we all have flaws, but seeing the real person is the gift we should seek to appreciate.

  13. I may have been a little too harsh. It wasn’t a bad movie. It’s just that I felt it focused way too much on Hector’s drug abuse and volatile relationship with Puchi as opposed to his life as an entertainer. Plus, a lot of the movie was highly fictionalized. ‘