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La Cuna Blanca: A homage to a friend gone too soon

Flashback Friday

I think it’s safe to say that we all have that one special song that reminds us of a loved one that has passed away. Whether it’s “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye”, “One Sweet Day”, or “Tears in Heaven”, these songs tend to provide a sense of comfort and in a way alleviate our grief, if for at least that brief moment. They serve as a source in which we’re able to vent and let out the built up pain caused by such a great loss. Some people take it a step further and put their feelings down to pen and paper.

Such was the case with Raphy Leavitt, a very well known composer and founder of the famous salsa orchestra “La Selecta.” Raphy Leavitt composed “La Cuna Blanca,” a song commonly played when paying tribute to recently passed loved ones. Leavitt and his band were on their way to a gig in Connecticut when the van they were in crashed, instantly killing trumpet player Luis Maysonet, and severely injuring Leavitt, causing him to walk with a permanent limp. While recovering from his injuries in the hospital and coming out of his coma, he had a recurring dream in which he saw an empty white crib and a baby’s cries coming out of it. Leavitt associated this vision with his trumpet player not knowing that he had passed away. In the vision, Maysonet was dressed all in black and he would say to Leavitt, “Raphy, I’ll help you from here.” When he was finally told of Maysonet’s death, Leavitt claimed to have already known, attributing these visions to that premonition.

After spending seven months in recovery, Leavitt finally put his vision into song, added an uptempo Cha-Cha-Cha beat, and with the bands lead singer, Sammy Marrero on vocals. Among the lyrics is the very heartfelt verse that goes: “You have left us, your trumpet remains silent, allow me, brother, to sing to you these sad verses”, after which the chorus adds “No one dares cry, allow him to silently laugh.” This song is a very touching homage to a close friend of the composer, and the love that existed within this friendship can be seen in the lyrics. The song lives on in the island of Puerto Rico, having become a popular farewell song at funerals.

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.

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