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Tito Puente: 1923-2000: Bandleader, Arranger, Percussionist Biography

Showed Musical Talent At Young Age, Formed His First Orchestra, Became An Icon

Tito Puente: 1923-2000: Bandleader, arranger, percussionist.

Tito Puente, legendary band-leader and percussionist, performed his unique blend of Latin music and American jazz for over sixty years. He recorded an astounding 118 albums and was a central figure in nearly every trend in Latin music in the 20th century. "He was the founding father of Latin music as we know it, the master of masters. He took all the hits in the beginning. Without Tito, who would have carried it on this long? Who would have helped generations make Latin music their own?," singer Marc Anthony wrote in Time following Puente's death in 2000. Though Down Beat noted that he once humbly dismissed himself as "just a street musician from the neighborhood," Puente was proud of his impact on Latin music and culture. "I'm very happy that Latin music is now getting the attention it deserves, both here and overseas," he told Billboard. "Especially in the last five years. They might not dig the language, but they dig the percussion, the excitement." It is the attention that Puente himself first stirred up when he moved his timbales—twin Cuban metal floor drums—from their traditional place behind the band to center stage, up front. From that moment he dazzled audiences with his showmanship and talent, playing wild-eyed and furious, stirring audience after audience to their feet and winning five Grammies and status as a true musical icon along the way.

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