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Latin Music Legends on Forever Stamps

5 Latin American artists honored by the U.S. government have their faces stamped in postal history

TITO PUENTE
1923-2000

Showman, composer, orchestra director, a virtuoso on multiple instruments and of a prolific productivity, "the King of timbales" recorded more than 100 albums in every imaginable tropical genre.

He started his career in the 1940s with rhythmic mambo and cha-cha-cha sessions. In the 1950s, he reached the peak of his career: mythical recordings of dance music (the classic Dancemania), ethereal Latin jazz compositions (his unbeatable Tambó of 1960) and the innovative spirit of his percussion solos (Puente in Percussion). The 1960s were about bossa nova and boogaloo; in the 70s, funk and Latin soul. Through the end of his career, Puente, born in New York of Puerto Rican parents, was happy to alternate between salsa (a term he deemed incorrect) and Latin jazz. Puente had an extraordinary ear for identifying talent; he made many recordings with Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Santitos Colón, the Panamanian singer Azuquita, Gilberto Monroig and Vicentico Valdés. He was the first musician to isolate the timbales from the percussion instruments, placing them up front on stage, where he accompanied his solos with elegant dance steps and his incomparable cheerful expressions. In the movie Calle 54, he is seen in his iconic white suit, enjoying music as if for the first time. He died in 2000 at the age of 77. 

Suggested Recordings

Dancemania
(1958)

Tambó (1960)

El rey bravo (1962)

Tito Puente and His Concert Orchestra (1973)

The Mambo King: 100th LP (1991)

50 Years of Swing (a collection of 3 records, 1997)

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