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Trombone player, composer, and bandleader Willie Colón is one of the pioneers of Latin American music. Despite initial criticism, Colón's album El Malo has become known as one of the first albums to feature the "New York Sound" that sparked a renewed interest in Latin music during the 1970s. Colón has been instrumental in the careers of such Latin musicians as Rubén Blades, who first sang with Colón's band in 1975, and Celia Cruz, for whom Colón has produced such albums as Only They Could Have Done This Album in 1977 and the highly successful duet album Celia & Willie in 1981. Colón has also produced albums for Ismael Miranda, Sophy, Soledad Bravo, and the late Hector Lavoe, who sang with his band in the early '70s. Inspired by the music of various cultures, Colón has recorded with such musicians as Puerto Rican cuatro player Yomo Toro and David Byrne. Colón's composition "Che Che Cole," adapted from a Ghanaian children's song, was used by Ntozake Shange in the musical play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. In addition to 11 Grammy nominations and one Grammy award, Colón has received a CHUBB fellowship from Yale University, the most prestigious award given by the Ivy League school. Colón ran for the United States Congress, representing New York's 17th Congressional District, in 1992.
Starting to play the trumpet at the age of 12, Colón switched to the trombone two years later. Making his recording debut in 1967, for Al Santiago's Futura label, Colón became a victim of misfortune when the label folded. Colón was much more successful when he signed with Johnny Pacheco's Fania label. When his vocalist failed to make Colón's first session for the label, Pacheco suggested Hector Lavoe as a replacement. The collaboration proved fruitful when two singles from Colón's first two albums (El Malo, Guisando) -- "Jazzy" and "I Wish I Had a Watermelon" -- became hits. Lavoe remained a vital member of Colón's band until the mid-'70s when an increased drug addiction caused him to miss or show up late for several gigs. Although their partnership formally ended in 1975, Colón and Lavoe continued to work together. Lavoe's last album, Strikes Back, released in 1987, was produced by Colón.
In 1975, Colón balanced his schedule as director of the Latin Jazz All Stars with studies in music theory, composition, and orchestration. His increased knowledge paid off quickly. In 1978, Colón was named Musician, Producer, and Trombone Player of the Year in a readers poll conducted by Latin New York. Three years later, he received an award as Musician of the Year and his album Fantasmas was named Album of the Year. Colón continued to garner acclaim when his album Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos received a Grammy award in 1982.
Although they met backstage before a concert in Panama in 1969, Colón and Blades didn't begin collaborating until five years later. While working on the album The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, Colón asked Blades to sing on the Blades-penned tune "El Cazanguero," which reflected on Blades' experiences as a law student working in a Panamanian prison. The session was so satisfying that Blades became a full-time member of Colón's band following the departure of Lavoe. Their 1978 album Siembra became the top-selling album in Fania's catalog. Despite their success, Blades severely quarreled with label president Jerry Mascucci over money. Although Colón recorded two solo albums -- El Baquine de Angelitos Negros in 1977 and Solo in 1979 -- and Blades recorded a solo album, Maestra Vida, in 1980, their solo work failed to match the commercial success of their joint efforts.
In 1981, the two musicians resumed their partnership, with Blades playing coro on Colón's solo album Fantasmas. The following year, they collaborated on the Grammy-winning album Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos, which yielded the hits singles "Tiburon," "Ligia Elena," and "Te Estan Buscando." Their partnership again proved short-lived as Colón and Blades split up after working on the film The Last Fight. The split was far from amiable and the two musicians continued to feud until reuniting for a concert at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan in March 1992. Despite collaborating on the album Tras la Tormenta in 1995, Colón and Blades recorded their parts separately. Following a reunion concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 1997, Colón and Blades performed a series of concerts together.
In the late '80s, Colón formed a new band, Legal Alien, with younger musicians. Signing with Sony, Colón and the band recorded Color Americano in 1990 and Honra y Cultura in 1991. Two years later, Colón recorded Hecho en Puerto Rico with an all-star band featuring ex-members of the Fania All-Stars, Papo Lucca and Bobby Valentin. Since leaving Sony over a lack of promotional support, Colón continued to remain active, filling stadiums and concerts halls throughout Latin America and releasing new material including Experiencia in 2004, followed by The Player three years later and El Malo, Vol. 2: Prisioneros del Mambo in 2008.
Wikipedia:This article is about the New Yorker musician; for the football player, see Willie Colon (American football)
William Anthony Colón (born 28 April 1950) is a salsa musician from New York of Puerto Rican descent. Primarily a trombonist, Colón also sings, writes, produces and acts. He is also involved in municipal politics in New York City.
Early years 
Willie Colón was born in the South Bronx, New York, to Puerto Rican parents. 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.
He was signed to Fania Records at 15 and recorded his first album at age 17, 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.
Mr. 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 the United Nations Immigrant Foundation, President of the Arthur Schomburg Coalition for a Better New York, member of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. In 1995, Mr. Colón became the first minority to serve on the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) national board and is now a member of the ASCAP FOUNDATION.
Musical career 
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 "that 'other' ancestral homeland, Africa", representing the mostly one-way flow from Puerto Rico to the New York-based diaspora. "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." Colón "makes the relation between diaspora and Caribbean homeland the central theme of his work," particularly in his 1971 Christmas album, Asalto navideño. 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."
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. 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."
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. Colón uses his songs to depict and investigate the problems of living in the U.S. as a Puerto Rican, and also to imply the cultural contributions that Puerto Ricans have to offer.
Recent accomplishments 
In 2001, Willie Colón ran for Public Advocate of the City of New York, garnering a respectable 101,393 votes, more than many other citywide candidates.
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.
Colón has served as the chair of the Association of Hispanic Arts.
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 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.
Colón currently serves as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s representative advisor & liaison to the Latin Media Entertainment Commission (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
Colón has also recently released two new singles, in promotion for his new album El Malo Vol II: Prisioneros del Mambo, "Amor de Internet" and "Corazón Partido."
On April 25, 2010, Willie 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 Rodriguez-Seeger.
On October 7, 2011, Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association recognized Colón for his social and community activism and support. President Bill Clinton [congratulates Willie Colón and Sherrif George Longworth]