Hector Lavoe - La Voz album Cover

When Héctor Juan Pérez Martínez (born 30 September 1946 – died 29 June 1993), first arrived in El Barrio, New York, from Puerto Rico, he had envisioned seeing fancy Cadillacs, tall marble skyscrapers, and tree-lined streets. After the realization of becoming a tried and true New Yorker, Héctor tried to earn a living as a painter, messenger, porter and concierge, until he reconnected with friends who frequented Latin music dance clubs in the Bronx, Spanish Harlem, and Lower Manhattan. In 1965, Héctor met Russell Cohen, who fronted the New Yorkers – the band Héctor would first record with. Héctor was invited by his friend Roberto García, a fellow musician and childhood friend, to a rehearsal of Cohen’s newly formed band. Upon arrival, the band was rehearsing the romantic bolero,”Tus Ojos.” The lead vocalist wasn’t cutting it, and as a goodwill gesture, Lavoe demonstrated how it was supposed to be sung. As a result of this selfless act, the group offered him the job of lead vocalist, which he eagerly accepted.

Later in his career, he joined other salsa groups including Orquesta New York, Kako & his All-Stars, and eventually met famed bandleader Johnny Pacheco who took him under his wing. To distinguish Héctor from other Latin singers, a former manager made Hector adopt vocalist Felipe Rodriguez’s moniker “La Voz” (“The Voice”) which became Hector Lavoe, a new stage name that would become one of the most well-known names in Salsa vocalizing.

It wasn’t until 1967, when he met salsa musician and bandleader Willie Colón and joined up with him, thanks to Pacheco, who was in the process of forming Fania Records, a Latin label that would become the crown jewel of Salsa music for decades to come. Hector and Willie became quite a team, recording hit after hit until 1973, when it became time for Héctor to lead his own band. His orchestra traveled the world making Héctor Lavoe a household name throughout Latin America, and eventually blossoming into a headliner for the world-renowned Fania All Stars, bringing him unrivaled fame as they toured the world doing concerts and making movies.

La Voz is the debut solo album by Hector Lavoe. It was released in 1975 by Fania Records. It includes not one but two major hits,”El Todopoderoso” and the Rubén Blades composition “Mi Gente,” which would become Héctor’s theme song and the title of the hit movie about his life, El Cantante, starring Marc Anthony as Hector and Jennifer Lopez as Hector’s wife, Puchi. —Bobby Marin