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Johnny Pacheco, salsa pioneer and co-founder of Fania Records, dies at 85

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Salsa idol Johnny Pacheco, who was co-founder of Fania Records, Eddie Palmieris’ teammate and supporter of music stars such as Rubn Blads, Willie Coln and Celia Cruz, died on Monday. He was 85 years old.

He had been hospitalized in New York a few days earlier for pneumonia, his wife, Maria Elena Cuqui Pacheco, said on the artists’ Facebook account.

Fania Records tweeted that the musician is the man most responsible for the salsa music genre. He was a visionary and his music will live on forever.

In a post on his social media, Blades said that Pacheco leaves us an important musical legacy, represented by all the collaborations he has made during his distinguished career.

Singer Marc Anthony lamented the loss of Pacheco, calling him a maestro of maestros and a good friend.

Your sense of humor was contagious and I am forever grateful for your support, for the opportunity to be in your presence and for your incredible legacy, Anthony wrote.

Pacheco was born on March 25, 1935 in the Dominican Republic into a family of musicians. In the 1940s, the family moved to New York, where he learned to play the accordion, violin, saxophone, and clarinet, and studied percussion at Juilliard.

In 1954, he formed the Chuchulecos Boys with Palmieri on piano, Barry Rogers on trombone and other musicians who would gain fame in the salsa scene, such as Al Santiago, Mike Collazo and Ray Santos.

But the life-changing moment came in 1963, when Pacheco teamed up with lawyer Jerry Masucci to found Fania Records.

Pacheco was the music director, composer, arranger and producer, overseeing the genre of music from labels that became known as salsa, a blend of Cuban mambo, guaracha and chachach, Puerto Rican rhythms, and Dominican meringue. He received the Latin Recording Academy Music Excellence Award in 2005 and has been nominated for several Grammys and Latin Grammys.

His music and legacy will last forever and continue to inspire music creators around the world, Gabriel Abaroa Jr., president and CEO of the Latin Recording Academy, said in a statement.

Pacheco is survived by his wife and their four children.

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