Willie Colón

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Willie Colón
Lavoe & Colon 70s.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Anthony Colón Román
Born (1950-04-28) April 28, 1950 (age 68)
OriginThe Bronx, New York City, United States
  • Activist
  • musician
  • record producer
  • composer
Years active1967–present
Associated acts

William Anthony Colón Román (born April 28, 1950) is a Nuyorican (a New York-born Puerto Rican) salsa musician and social activist. He began his career as a trombonist, and also sings, writes, produces, and acts. He is also involved in the politics of New York City[1]

Early years[edit]

Willie Colón is a Nuyorican, born in the South Bronx, New York, to American-born parents of Puerto Rican descent. He picked up the trumpet from a young age, and later switched to trombone, inspired by the all-trombone sound of Mon Rivera and Barry Rogers. He spent some summers at his maternal grandmother’s sister’s (La finca de Celín y Ramón) farm in the outskirts of Manatí, Puerto Rico on the road to neighboring Ciales, Puerto Rico.[2]

At the age of 15 he was signed to Fania Records and at 17 he recorded his first album, which ultimately sold more than 300,000 copies. Due to fortuitous events, the main record producer at Fania at the time, Johnny Pacheco, recommended Héctor Lavoe to him.[3]

He has also acted in films, including roles in Vigilante (1983), The Last Fight (1983) and It Could Happen to You (1994).

Colón has been a civil rights, community and political activist since the age of 16. He has served as a member of the Latino Commission on AIDS and President of the Arthur Schomburg Coalition for a Better New York, member of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.[4] In 1995, Mr. Colón became the first person of color to serve on the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) national board replacing Stephen Soundheim and was also a member of the ASCAP Foundation.[5][6]

Music career[edit]

Willie Colón is often called the OG (Original Gangsta) because of his tongue in cheek album covers.

Beyond the trombone, he has also worked as a composer, arranger, and singer, and eventually as a producer and director. Combining elements of jazz, rock, and salsa, his work incorporates the rhythms of traditional music from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and the other ancestral homeland, Africa, representing the mostly a one-way flow from Puerto Rico to the New York-based diaspora.[7] "His life and music commute back and forth between his home turf in the Bronx and his ancestral Puerto Rico, with more than casual stop-offs in other musical zones of the Caribbean."[7] Colón "makes the relation between diaspora and Caribbean homeland the central theme of his work," particularly in his 1971 Christmas album, Asalto Navideño.[7] The lyrics and music of the songs on this album "enact the diaspora addressing the island culture in a complex, loving but at the same time mildly challenging way."[7][8]

On July 12, 2018 Willie Colón became the first Latin artist to perform at Paris' Bataclan theater after the 2015 terrorist attack.

He went on to have many successful collaborations with salsa musicians and singers such as Ismael Miranda, Celia Cruz and Soledad Bravo, and singer-songwriter Rubén Blades.[9] On his website, Colón claims to hold the "all time record for sales in the Salsa genre, [having] created 40 productions that have sold more than thirty million records worldwide."[10]

One significant overarching theme in Colón's music, which draws from many cultures and several different styles, is an exploration of the competing associations that Puerto Ricans have with their home and with the United States. He uses his songs to depict and investigate the problems of living in the United States as a Puerto Rican,[11] and also to imply the cultural contributions that Puerto Ricans have to offer.[7]

In May 2007 Willie Colon sued Ruben Blades for breach of contract. This led to a series of suits and countersuits that lasted over five years. A book titled "Decisiones" detailing the inside story of this legal battle was written by Blades' former agent, Robert J. Morgalo and published in 2016 in English and Spanish website. The court documents can be read here [12] and full transcripts of depositions and court rulings can be seen here [13]

Colón released two singles,"Amor de Internet" and "Corazón Partido" to promote for his album El Malo Vol II: Prisioneros del Mambo.[14] In 2016 Colón began his 50th Anniversary Tour. In 2017 Colón announced his upcoming book titled Barrio de Guapos (The Secret Life of Willie Colón) and the launching of his record label Willie Colon Presents.[15] For 2018 Colón kicked off his "Rumba Del Siglo" (Jam of the Century) World Tour performing in U.S., Latin America and Europe to mostly sold out venues.


Willie Colón promoted to Deputy Lieutenant

In 2001, Willie Colón ran for Public Advocate of the City of New York, receiving 101,393 votes.[16]

Colón served for 13 years as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's representative advisor and liaison to the Latin Media Entertainment Commission[17] (to which Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lopez serve as the celebrity chairs). Colón's base of operations, ELMALO, is in New Rochelle, New York.

On April 16, 2008, Colón announced his endorsement of U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.[18]

On December 13, 2017 Willie Colón was promoted to the rank of Deputy Lieutenant.

On April 25, 2010, Colón appeared at The National Mall for The Earth Day Climate Rally, along with Sting, John Legend, The Roots, Jimmy Cliff, Passion Pit, Bob Weir, Joss Stone, Robert Randolph, Patrick Stump, Mavis Staples, Booker T, Honor Society and Tao Rodríguez-Seeger.

In 2012 and 2013, Colón campaigned against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and the socialist Bolivarian Revolution. Chávez addressed Colón via Twitter [19] ("shoemaker tend to your shoes"). After Chávez' death, Willie Colón endorsed opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, vigorously using social media and composing a campaign theme "Mentira Fresca"[20] ("Fresh Lies" which became the regime's candidate, Nicolás Maduro's nickname) the song went viral in Latin America, garnering millions of plays and downloads. Colón continues to be active in Venezuelan politics having pressed for the release of journalist Leocenis García[21] and the release of political prisoner General Antonio Rivero[22]

On May 26, 2014 after graduating from Westchester County Police Academy, Commissioner/Sheriff George Longworth swore William Anthony Colón into service as a Deputy Sheriff for Department of Public Safety. On December 13, 2017 Westchester County Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Yasinski swore Deputy Sergeant William A Colón to the rank of Deputy Lieutenant

Awards and honors[edit]

In addition to serving as a visiting professor and receiving honorary degrees for music and humane letters at various universities, in 1991, Colón received Yale University's Chubb Fellowship.

In 1999, Colón was a member of the Jubilee 2000 delegation to the Vatican along with Randolph Robinson of Trans Africa, Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, Bono from U2 and Quincy Jones. This initiative received Pope John Paul II's endorsement and later prompted President Clinton to forgive the US portion of the debt owed by some third-world countries. Jubilee 2000 resulted in the forgiveness of a total $100 Billion Dollars to debt ridden countries.[23]

In September 2004, Colón received the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Over the course of his career, he has collaborated with notable musicians such as the Fania All-Stars, Héctor Lavoe, Rubén Blades, David Byrne, and Celia Cruz. Siembra, his record with Rubén Blades, was the best selling album for its genre.[24]

In 2006, Willie Colón is portrayed by actor John Ortiz to Marc Anthony's Héctor Lavoe in the movie El Cantante, starring Jennifer Lopez. The movie is about the life of Héctor Lavoe and it covered their early career as the top salsa duo from the 1960s through the mid-1970s.

In 2010, The "International Trombone Association" bestowed their Lifetime Achievement Award upon Willie Colón. In their journal they went on to say, "Willie Colón has probably done more than anyone since Tommy Dorsey to keep the trombone before the public. Stylistically they are poles apart, Dorsey representing an ultra-smooth approach, Colón a Hard-edged roughness reportedly inspired by Barry Rogers. Unfortunately, Colón's public is largely Latino, so his music and contribution have gone unnoticed or ignored by the general press"- Gerald Sloan, professor of music University of Arkansas.[25]

On October 7, 2011, Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association[26] recognized Colón for his social and community activism and support.

In 2015 Billboard magazine named Willie Colón one of the 30 most influential Latin Artists of All Time. [27]

On May 12, 2018, The Ellis Island Honor Society awarded Willie Colón the Ellis Island Medal of Honor which are presented annually to a select group of individuals whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to the nation are cause for celebration. The Medal has been officially recognized by both Houses of Congress as one of our nation’s most prestigious awards and is annually memorialized in the Congressional Record.[28]

Colón has served as the chair of the Association of Hispanic Arts.[29][30]


Title Producer Label Released
El Malo Jerry Masucci
Johnny Pacheco
Fania 1967
The Hustler Jerry Masucci
Johnny Pacheco
Fania 1968
Guisando Willie Colón Fania 1969
Cosa Nuestra Willie Colón Fania 1970
Asalto Navideño Willie Colón Fania 1971
La Gran Fuga Willie Colón Fania 1971
El Juicio Willie Colón Fania 1972
Asalto Navideño Vol. 2 Willie Colón Fania 1972
Crime Pays Fania 1972
Lo Mato Willie Colón Fania 1973
Willie Fania 1974
Se Chavó el Vecindario! Willie Colón Vaya 1975
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Willie Colón Fania 1975
Metiendo Mano!! Willie Colón Fania 1977
El Baquiné de Angelitos Negros Willie Colón Fania 1977
Sólo Ellos Pudieron Hacer Este Álbum Willie Colón Fania 1977
49 Minutes Fania 1978
Deja Vu Fania 1978
Siembra Willie Colón
Ruben Blades
Fania 1978
Solo Willie Colón Fania 1979
Doble Energía Willie Colón Fania 1980
Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos Willie Colón Fania 1981
Celia & Willie Willie Colón Fania 1981
Fantasmas Willie Colón Fania 1981
Corazón Guerrero Willie Colón Fania 1982
The Last Fight Willie Colón Fania 1982
Su Vida Musical: 14 Éxitos Originales Fania 1982
Vigilante Willie Colón Fania 1983
Criollo Willie Colón RCA 1984
Tiempo Pa' Matar Willie Colón Fania 1984
Contrabando Especial N°5 Willie Colón 1985
Quién Eres Willie Colón 1986
Grandes Éxitos 1986
The Winners Willie Colón Fania 1987
Top Secrets Willie Colón WAC Productions 1989
Color Americano Willie Colón Sony 1990
Grandes Éxitos Vol. 2 Sony 1991
Honra y Cultura Willie Colón Sony 1991
Super Éxitos 1992
The Best Sony 1992
Willie Colón & Tito Puente Fania 1993
Hecho en Puerto Rico Willie Colón, Cuco Peña Sony 1993
The Best II Sony 1994
Americano Latino Willie Colón Sony 1995
Tras la Tormenta Willie Colón Sony 1995
Y Vuelve Otra Vez!!! Willie Colón Fonovisa 1996
Demasiado Corazón Willie Colón Azteca 1998
El Rey del Trombón 1998
Mi Gran Amor Sony 1999
Guerrero de Corazón 2000
Idilio Sony 2002
La Experiencia 2004
Colección de Oro 2005
OG: Original Gangster 2006
The Player Sony 2007
La Historia: The Hit List 2007
El Malo Vol II: Prisioneros del Mambo Willie Colón Lone Wolf 2008
Asalto Navideño Live/En Vivo Lone Wolf 2008
La Esencia de la Fania 2008
Historia de la Salsa 2010
Selecciones Fania 2011
Serie Premium: Sólo Éxitos 2013


  1. ^ "Hugo Chávez ahora se enfrenta a Willie Colón". Elespectador.Com. 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  2. ^ Hollander, Kurt (1994-09-20). The Rhythms: Portable Lower East Side. Books.google.com. ISBN 978-0-8021-3408-0. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  3. ^ Izzy Sanabria. "The Hector LaVoe Story by Izzy Sanabria". Salsamagazine.com. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  4. ^ "Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute". Chci.org. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  5. ^ "LMEC Commissioners – Latin Media and Entertainment Commission". Home2.nyc.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  6. ^ "ASCAP Board". Ascap.com. 2006-04-01. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  7. ^ a b c d e Flores, Juan (Fall 2004). "Creolité in the 'Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge" (PDF). Centro. 16 (2): 282–293. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
  8. ^ "Traigo la Salsa". YouTube. 2006-11-26. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  9. ^ "Rubén Blades". IMDb.bom. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  10. ^ "english section". WillieColon.com. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  11. ^ González, Lisa Sánchez (April 1999). "Reclaiming Salsa". Cultural Studies. 13 (2): 237–250. doi:10.1080/095023899335266.
  12. ^ http://www.decisionesbook.com/documentation/documentation
  13. ^ http://www.decisionesbook.com/documentation/depositions-and-transcripts
  14. ^ "download page". WillieColon.com. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  15. ^ "Willie Colón aún no para de gozar". July 1, 2017.
  16. ^ "Gotham Gazette". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  17. ^ "LMEC Commissioner Willie Colon". Home2.nyc.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  18. ^ Willie Colón Endorses Hillary Clinton for President Archived April 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "Hugo Chávez ahora se enfrenta a Willie Colón - Elespectador.com". September 7, 2010.
  20. ^ Natán Skigin (2013-04-14). "Mentira Fresca, el hit de Willie Colón a Maduro – América". America.infobae.com. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  21. ^ "Pol_ava_liberan Al Periodist_06A4141611 – 2010" (in Spanish). El Universal. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  22. ^ "Willie Colón – News Blog » Blog Archive » Freed Political Prisoner General Antonio Rivero Thanks Willie Colón – YouTube". Williecolon.com. 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  23. ^ "Bono, Robinson, Jeffrey Sachs, & Quincy Jones To Meet With The Pope".
  24. ^ "Descarga.com". Descarga.com. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  25. ^ "a Willie Colón ITA's 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner".
  26. ^ "Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association". Whlea.com. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  27. ^ "The 30 Most Influential Latin Artists of All Time".
  28. ^ "The Ellis Island Medalist of 2018".
  29. ^ "Association of Hispanic Arts". Latinoarts.org. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  30. ^ "Association of Hispanic Arts on NYC GOV Website". Home2.nyc.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-03.

External links[edit]