Joe Cuba, was a Spanish Harlem band leader and conga player who became known as the father of Latin boogaloo because of a string of innovative hit records in the 1960s and ’70s that fused Latin and soul elements. Originally the leader of a Latin band with jazz leanings, Mr. Cuba found commercial success by mixing rhythm and blues into his music and Spanish and English into his lyrics. Hits like “Sock It to Me Baby” and “Bang Bang,” both from 1967, demonstrated a crossover popularity that was unusual for the time, appealing almost equally to Latinos, blacks and mainstream audiences.
“Joe was really the pioneer in making the move to singing in both languages, and it blended very well with those up tempos he liked to use,” said the jazz and salsa pianist Eddie Palmieri, who first met Mr. Cuba in 1955, when both men were playing in the Catskills. “He takes a top position in the history of the music for that, and also because he showed what you can do with a small group.”
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