TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

Up to this point, and quite purposefully, I have avoided talking about Puerto Rico and its contributions to Salsa music. I simply wanted to dedicate some special entries to the Boricua artists who helped develop this genre. So here we go . . .

We have to start with El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico or The Great Band from Puerto Rico, unassuming, I know. When Fania All Stars played their famous Yankee Stadium concert in 1973, El Gran Combo opened for them. They had been around since 1962 when Rafael Ithier organized the band. In 1963, El Gran Combo released its first album, Acángana (my Puerto Rican friends might have to correct me, but this is Puerto Rican onomatopoeia for the sound produced when hitting or running into something.)

Acángana happened to be released two days before John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Texas. As a sign of mourning, the distribution of this party album in Puerto Rico was postponed. Instead, the album was distributed in other Latin American countries including Colombia, and in New York, giving the band great exposure and well deserved attention. When the album returned to Puerto Rico, it was already a success.

In Colombia, El Gran Combo was dubbed La Universidad de la Salsa (The University of Salsa) not only because many famous artists, including Andy Montañez, spun off from the band, but also because of the Band's ability to back up singers such as Celia Cruz and Hector Lavoe. The Research and Innovation Department at El Gran Combo University has graced us with many well known hits. I will spotlight a few in the coming weeks, but I wanted to start with this one:

Se me Fué by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

Released in 1982, this is the (fun) sad tale of a man whose girl has left Puerto Rico for--where else?-- New York City. And he sings, "she left me, but I know that when she gets there, and she hears in English, 'What the Heck' and 'What's the matter', she's gonna pack her bags and come back. . . ." In the end she stays, and not "alone and cold" as the boy imagines her to be. I wonder how many Puerto Ricans can relate to both sides of the story. After all, there are millions of Newyorricans in NYC, and most Puerto Ricans have a relative in the Big Apple.

Well, as the songs ends: "Deja a ese diablo por allá, mejor que nunca regrese." (Let that devil be, it's better if she never returns).

Liked it? Here's an updated version of the song:


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