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Willie Colón: 1950—: Salsa Performer, Producer, Composer, Activist

Entered Politics

A legendary figure throughout the Spanish-speaking Western Hemisphere, Colón continued to make music in the 1990s and 2000s. When he performed in large outdoor settings, as he did at an Easter concert at Mexico City's central Zócalo in 2000, he often drew crowds of 100,000 or more. But Colón's interests increasingly turned to community activism and politics during the 1990s. "Sometimes writing a song is not enough," the singer told the New York Times, explaining his decision to challenge Bronx U.S. Representative Eliot Engel in the 1994 New York Democratic primary election.

Colón lost, but garnered a respectable 38 percent of the vote, and he also did well in a citywide race for New York Public Advocate in 2001, although it was an unsuccessful bid. Colón continued to turn his energies to the public good in various ways. He served on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities under President Bill Clinton, became a spokesperson for the CARE International relief agency, joined the agitation against the U.S. Navy bombing range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and was instrumental in persuading New York Governor George Pataki to lend his support to the ultimately successful effort to halt the bombings. In 2001 Colón composed and produced a Spanish-language jingle for the successful mayoral campaign of Republican candidate Michael Bloom-berg. As he gained contacts and experience, it seemed possible that Colón might one day exert political influence to match the tremendous impact he had already made on the musical lives of Latin Americans, as well as on everyone else whose attention was ever snared by the musical flavor of salsa.

Selected discography

El malo, Fania, 1968.

Cosa nuestra, Fania, 1971.

Crime Pays, Fania, 1973.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, Fania, 1976.

Siembra, Fania, 1978.

Solo, Fania, 1979.

Fantasmas, Fania, 1981.

Criollos, RCA, 1984.

Altos secretos, Fania, 1989.

Grandes exitos, Fania, 1992.

Super exitos, Fania, 1992.

The Best, Sony Discos, 1992.

Best, Vol. 2, Sony, 1994.

Brillantes, Sony, 1996.

Best, Fania, 1996.

20th Anniversary, Sony Discos, 1999.

Colleción de Oro, Sony, 2002.



Boston Globe, September 21, 1990, p. Arts & Film-48; June 17, 1993, p. Calendar-9.

Daily News (New York), October 22, 1999, p. 4.

Houston Chronicle, June 27, 1993, p. Zest-7; June 17, 1996, p. Houston-4.

Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2002, p. Calendar-8.

New York Times, June 25, 1994, Section 1, p. 25; September 29, 2001, p. D2.


"Willie Colón," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (March 26, 2003).

"Willie Colón," Lycos.com, www.music.lycos.com (March 26, 2003).

"Willie Colón - Biography," Willie Colón Homepage, www.williecolon.com/bio.htm (March 26, 2003).

—James M. Manheim

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Ciara Biography - Wrote Out Goals to Elizabeth David (1913–1992) BiographyWillie Colón: 1950—: Salsa Performer, Producer, Composer, Activist Biography - Switched To Trombone, Broadened Topics Of Salsa Lyrics, Entered Politics