Larry Harlow (musician)

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Larry Harlow
Birth nameLawrence Ira Kahn
Born(1939-03-20)March 20, 1939
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
OriginNew York City
DiedAugust 20, 2021(2021-08-20) (aged 82)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
GenresSalsa, Charanga, Boogaloo, Latin jazz
Occupation(s)Pianist, composer, producer
Years active1960s–2020
Formerly ofFania All-Stars

Larry Harlow (born Lawrence Ira Kahn; March 20, 1939 – August 20, 2021) was an American salsa music pianist, performer, composer, band leader and producer. He was born into a musical American family of Jewish descent.[1][2]



Harlow was born Lawrence Ira Kahn on March 20, 1939, in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the son of Rose (née Sherman; 1910–1975) and Buddy Kahn ( Nathan Kahn; 1909–1981), and brother of Andy Harlow ( Andre H. Kahn; born 1945).

In 1957, Larry graduated from Music & Arts High School.[3][4] His mother was an opera singer with the stage name Rose Sherman in New York. His father was the bandleader at the Latin Quarter in New York under the name Buddy Harlowe.[4] Harlow was affectionately nicknamed El Judío Maravilloso (The Marvelous Jew).[4]

Harlow was a noted salsa bandleader and multi-instrumentalist, although he primarily played piano. He produced over 260 albums for Fania Records as well as his manager and musician friend Chino Rodriguez two albums for Salsa Records and including his brother Andy's four albums on the Fania stable mate Vaya Records between 1972 and 1976: Sorpresa La Flauta, La Música Brava, El Campesino and Latin Fever. The first garnered a gold disc and spawned "La Lotería", the company's biggest selling 45 rpm release to date.[citation needed]

Music skills[edit]

Harlow excelled at an early age at various instruments. The music and culture of New York's Latino community led him to Cuba where he began an intense study of Afro-Cuban music. Harlow, who was known for his innovative blend of Afro-Cuban and jazz styles of piano playing, studied music in the 1950s in Cuba but was unable to complete his degree before the Cuban Revolution forced him to leave the island in 1959. Larry's Orquesta Harlow was the second orchestra signed to the Fania label. Harlow also produced over 106 albums for various artists and over 50 albums on his own besides the ones he produced for Fania.

Harlow continued to perform with Fania. Among his most popular albums were Abran Paso and Tributo a Arsenio Rodriguez with Ismael Miranda as the lead singer. Larry's opera Hommy (inspired by the Who's Tommy) was credited as integral to Celia Cruz's comeback (from an early retirement). In other firsts, Harlow was the first piano player for the legendary salsa group known as the Fania All-Stars, generally regarded as the seminal and most-important Salsa group to date, and Fania's first record producer. He also appeared with the Fania All-Stars in the movies Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa), Live in Africa, and Salsa. One of the highlights of the film Our Latin Thing is the Orquesta Harlow 1971 performance of Abran Paso in front of an exuberant and dancing audience in East Harlem with a baby faced Ismael Miranda on vocals.[5]


Among Harlow's further contributions to music was his insistence on creation of a Latin Grammy Award (before the category merged in 2010 with less-specific Jazz ones. A year after the Trustees who oversee the Grammy Awards cut 31 categories in May 2011, they drew fierce protests from Latin jazz musician Bobby Sanabria, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon and Herbie Hancock among others, and the Grammys Trustees Board voted to reinstate the award for Best Latin Jazz Album in June 2012.) Larry Harlow's 1977 salsa suite La Raza Latina, an ambitious history of the Latin music musical genre created with singer/songwriter Rubén Blades, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Partially in recognition of his early efforts to establish the Latin Grammy categories (which for some years were awarded in a separate ceremony) as well as for his impressive career contributions to the tropical dance music genre (and Harlow's jazzified pianistic approach to it), in November 2008 Larry Harlow was presented with the Trustees Award by the Latin Recording Academy.

The Latin Legends Band a.k.a. Latin Legends of FANIA[edit]

In 1994, at the suggestion of his manager at the time Chino Rodriguez; Larry Harlow teamed up with Ray Barreto, Adalberto Santiago, and cuatro guitar virtuoso Yomo Toro to found the Latin Legends Band, with the aim of both educating Latino and American youth about Latin music heritage and pioneering new ideas in the music, resulting in Larry Harlow's Latin Legends of Fania Band 2006. This was an idea from Barretto and Harlow and the Latin Legends band continues to work around the world. With this same purpose he collaborated with multi-disciplinary artist David Gonzalez in ''Sofrito!'', a spicy stew of folk tales set to salsa, mambo, and jazz rhythms.[6]

In 2005, Harlow contributed to The Mars Volta's album Frances the Mute, on which he played a piano solo toward the end of "L'Via L'Viaquez." He also played piano with the group in some live shows.[7]


Larry Harlow was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and was presented with the Beny Moré Memorial Award by the same organization in 2002.[8][9] In 2008, Larry Harlow was presented with the Latin Grammy Trustees Award.[10] He also received the Legacy Award at the 2016 La Musa Awards.[11]

Larry Harlow held a BA in Music from Brooklyn College, City University of New York since 1963, and a master's degree in philosophy from the New School of Social Research also in New York City.

Latter years and death[edit]

Prior to his death, Harlow resided in New York with his wife, and regularly continued to lead and perform with Larry Harlow and the Fania Latin Legends.

Harlow died in the Bronx, New York on August 20, 2021, aged 82, due to heart failure while hospitalized for a renal condition.[3][12]


  • Heavy Smokin' (Fania, 1965)
  • Bajándote: Gettin' Off (Fania, 1966)
  • El Exigente (Fania, 1967)
  • Me and My Monkey (Fania, 1969)
  • Ambergris! (Gatefold, 1970)
  • Electric Harlow (Fania, 1970)
  • Abran Paso! (Fania, 1971)
  • Orchestra Harlow Presenta an Ismael Miranda (Fania, 1971)
  • Tribute To Arsenio Rodríguez (Fania, 1971)
  • Opportunidad (Fania, 1972)
  • Harlow's Harem (Fania, 1972)
  • Hommy: A Latin Opera (Fania, 1973)
  • Salsa (Fania, 1974)
  • Live in Quad (Fania, 1974)
  • El Judío Maravilloso (Fania, 1975)
  • Con Mi Viejo Amigo (Fania, 1976)
  • El Jardinero del Amor (Fania, 1976)
  • La Raza Latina: A Salsa Suite (Fania, 1977)
  • El Albino Divino (Fania, 1978)
  • Latin Fever (Fania, 1978)
  • Rumbambola (Fania, 1978)
  • La Responsabilidad (with Fausto Rey) (Fania, 1979)
  • El Dulce Aroma del Éxito (Fania, 1980)
  • Our Latin Feeling (Nuestro Sentimiento) (Fania, 1980)
  • Así Soy Yo (Coco, 1981)
  • Yo Soy Latino (Fania, 1983)
  • Señor Salsa (Tropical Budda, 1984)
  • My Time Is Now/Mi Tiempo Llego (Cache Records 1990)
  • The Latin Legends Band (Sony International, March 31, 1998)
  • Romance En Salsa (Caimán, 1999)
  • ¡Sofrito! (Rainart, 2000)
  • Live at Birdland (Latin Cool, 2003)
  • Passing The Torch vol.1 (With Marlow Rosado)(Big Label Records 2016)


  • Our Latin Thing (Fania 1972)
  • Salsa (Fania, 1974)
  • Celia cruz and the Fania All Stars In Africa (Fania, 1993)
  • Live (Fania, 1995)
  • Larry Harlow's Latin Legends of Fania (2006)
  • Soul Power (2009)



  1. ^ Resto Max La salsificación de Israel Archived November 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, El Nuevo Día, October 31, 2007
  2. ^ Larry Rohter, "From Jewish Roots in Brooklyn, a Sizzling Salsa Star", New York Times, August 13, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (August 26, 2021). "Larry Harlow, Influential Figure in Salsa, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Morales, E. B. (August 24, 2021). "Larry Harlow, a Salsa Revolutionary". New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  5. ^ Musica!: Salsa, Rumba, Merengue, And More by Sue Steward; ISBN 0-8118-2566-3]
  6. ^ David González With Larry Harlow And The Latin Legends Band Featuring Yomo Toro & Adalberto Santiago - Sofrito!, retrieved February 13, 2023
  7. ^ The Mars Volta & Larry Harlow - L'Via L'Viaquez [Live] 2005-05-05 - New York, NY - Roseland Ballroom. Retrieved April 11, 2024 – via
  8. ^ "International Latin Music Hall of Fame Announces Year 2000 Inductees". March 1, 2000. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  9. ^ "International Latin Music Hall of Fame Announces Inductees for 2002". April 5, 2002. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  10. ^ "Vikki Carr, Cheo Feliciano, Astrud Gilberto, Angelica Maria, Maria Dolores Pradera, and Estela Raval to Receive the 2008 Latin Recording Academy(R)Lifetime Achievement Award". Hispanic PR Newswire. September 30, 2008. Archived from the original on March 2, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  11. ^ "Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame Celebrated the 4th Annual LA MUSA AWARDS Show At The Fillmore Miami Beach Jackie Gleason Theater – Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame". Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. October 15, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  12. ^ Contreras, Felix (August 20, 2021). "Larry Harlow, Iconic Salsa Musician And Producer, Has Died 82". NPR. Retrieved August 23, 2021.

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