Fania All-Stars

A cornerstone of the salsa music boom of the 1960s and ‘70s, the Fania All-Stars was the showcase act for New York-based Fania Records. The group significantly raised the profile of salsa music around the world, and featured a number of iconic Latin performers in its ranks and as collaborators. Formed in 1968 by Fania founder and musician Johnny Pacheco as a way to get all his biggest acts in the same room for a recording, the Fania All-Stars began as a live entity. Its first release, Live at the Red Garter, set the template for the group’s direction by showcasing salsa music’s best performers on lengthy jams that gave each musician their chance to shine and engage in interplay with fellow artists. Live at the Red Garter was truly an all-star affair, and featured pianist Eddie Palmieri, percussionist Tito Puente, singer Héctor Lavoe, bassist Bobby Valentín, percussionist Ray Barretto, and horn player Willie Colón. Live albums continued to arrive through the early ‘70s, and the group’s momentum culminated in a massive concert at Yankee Stadium in 1973, featuring no less than the Queen of Salsa herself, Celia Cruz. The performance would be anthologized with its own live albums and a film, Salsa. The group remained an in-demand live attraction around the world, highlighted by a 1974 performance in Zaire as a prelude to the classic “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Later in the ‘70s, the Fania All-Stars began to release studio recordings, starting with A Tribute to Tito Rodríguez, in honor of the late Puerto Rican bandleader. By this time the group had been joined by singer Rubén Blades, who went on to tremendous success as one of salsa music’s most popular artists. By the time the ‘80s arrived, the popularity of salsa music and the group had crested, but the Fania All-Stars continued to perform and record in various configurations, outlasting their namesake label and serving as global ambassadors for salsa music.

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Stations Featuring Fania All-Stars

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