Puerto Rican salsa singer Héctor Lavoe is considered by many music historians to be one of the most significant voices in the music genre since he helped popularize it in the 1960s and beyond. He made such an impact on salsa music that El Cantante, a film on his life and career, was made in 2006 and starred Marc Anthony as Lavoe and Jennifer Lopez as his wife “Puchi.” Anthony and Lopez were husband and wife in real life during the making of the film.
“Héctor Lavoe gave Latinos in New York something to be proud of,” says film critic Jack Rico. “The sound of salsa became the sound of culture.”
During a new episode of the Scouting Nueva York Series sponsored by the New York Lottery and its new movie-themed $1,000,000 Premiere Scratch-Off Game, Rico takes viewers to Central Park, which Rico explains is one of the most “filmed locations in the entire world … as far back as 1908.”
The location is used in El Cantante where the “scenes of serenity and good memories” in Lavoe’s life take place amidst all the chaos brought on by his fame. Rico explains that for many living in NYC, Central Park really is a metaphor for peace and quiet and serves as a “reset button” after taking on the “hustle and bustle of the city.”
Lavoe, whose stage name means “The Voice” in French, was very familiar with how busy city life could be, especially as a musician. He moved to New York City at the age of 16 where he sang for several different bands, including Orquesta New York and Johnny Pacheco’s Fania All-Stars. In his early 20s, Lavoe joined Willie Colón’s band as the lead singer and recorded hit songs like “El Malo” and “Canto a Borinquen.”
Lavoe and Colón made 14 albums together, but Lavoe’s signature song, 1978’s “El Cantante,” was written by Panamanian musician Rubén Blades a few years after Lavoe decided to go solo. Lavoe is best known for his influence as a musician with international allure. Anthony’s portrayal of Lavoe in El Cantante captured the same magnetism that he was known for. It didn’t hurt that Anthony, an international star himself, was able to do Lavoe’s music justice.
There’s no denying how important Lavoe still is to the Latino community. He created a sound and style that has yet to be reproduced by another salsa singer. While you listen to some of Lavoe’s music this week, remember keep the rhythm steady while playing the New York Lottery’s $1,000,000 Premiere Scratch-Off Game. It’s more fun to scratch lottery tickets when you’re moving to “Dejala Que Siga.”