Willie Colón [1950 - ]
William Anthony Colón was raised by his grandmother in the South Bronx. His first instrument was the trumpet, but he was inspired by Barry Rogers and Mon Rivera to switch to trombone, an instrument which he made his own with a famously blatty sound.
He began his audacious professional career playing at community centers with junior high school classmates and, at age 15, he signed with the Fania record label. Two years later his first album, El Malo sold 300,000 copies.
A skilled and adventurous arranger, Colón combined diverse rhythms and styles to help create the music that would become known as salsa. His use of Puerto Rican country or jíbaro elements in salsa, as heard on his hugely popular 1972 album Asalto Navideño, was especially popular with Puerto Rican listeners.
He also had a knack for discovering great singers, first signing Héctor Lavoe and later Rubén Blades. His 1978 album, Siembra, featuring compositions by Blades, helped establish salsa as a progressive political voice throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
In addition to his musical achievements, Colón has been an energetic community activist, serving with a variety of arts and civil rights organizations and even running for the New York state legislature in 1993. In 1991 he was awarded Yale University’s CHUBB fellowship and in 1996 he was nominated by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 most Influential U.S. Hispanics.