Sunday, September 1, 2013

40 Year Itch: The Fania All Stars Play Yankee Stadium

Billed as a "night of Latin, soul and rock music", the Fania All Star concert at Yankee Stadium drew 45,000 people and alerted the rest of the music industry that something special was happening in New York. The stars of the Fania label include some artists previously discussed this year: Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe. On August 24, 1973 they were joined on a stage loaded with swinging talent.

Watch Johnny Pacheco lead the band through what has been called "the greatest Latin concert ever staged"

            After the Fania All Stars played, Billboard Magazine reports the popular Puerto Rican group El Gran Combo performed, dazzling the crowd with their green jump suits and Motown choreography. Then Manu Dibango took the stage and drew people out of their seats and onto the field with his "Soul Makossa".

In his book Love Goes to Buildings on Fire Will Hermes describes the same scene but claims the Fania All Stars brought the crowd onto the field, waving Puerto Rican flags and cheering. The concert was canceled at that moment and the crowd reacted with fury:

People began climbing onto the stage; some decide to go shopping. By the time things settle down, there is little left onstage besides cables and mic stands; someone has even made off with Larry Harlow's piano. 

The live album that followed includes Hector Lavoe's huge hit "Mi Gente" which was actually recorded in Puerto Rico months later. He never got to sing that night. Check out Lavoe in Zaire a year later.

           Maybe it was the language barrier but despite Santana's success and the fact that every major rock band seemed to be adding conga drums and bongos to their live acts,  the salsa scene never found crossover success in mainstream America. That didn't keep Stevie Wonder from joining the Fania All Stars in future concerts.

     This month 1001Songs will be flying around the world to see how the prog rocks sounds of Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd infected musicians despite cultural and language differences.

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