Today marks the 18th anniversary of death of the Legend of Latin Music and The King of Timbal Tito Puente
Ernesto Antonio "Tito" Puente (April 20, 1923 – May 31, 2000) was an American musician, songwriter and record producer. The son of native Puerto Ricans Ernesto and Ercilia Puente, living in New York City's Spanish Harlem community, Puente is often credited as "El Rey de los Timbales" and "The King of Latin Music". He is best known for dance-oriented mambo and Latin jazz compositions that endured over a 50-year career.
Tito Puente was born on April 20, 1923, at Harlem Hospital Center in Manhattan.
By the age of 10, he switched to percussion, drawing influence from jazz drummer Gene Krupa.
He later created a song-and-dance duo with his sister Anna in the 1930s and intended to become a dancer, but an ankle tendon injury prevented him pursuing dance as a career.
During the 1950s, Puente was at the height of his popularity, and helped to bring Afro-Cuban and Caribbean sounds like mambo, son, and cha-cha-chá, to mainstream audiences. Puente was so successful playing popular Afro-Cuban rhythms that many people mistakenly identify him as Cuban.
Puente won 5 Grammy Awards for the album 'Tribute to Benny Moré', On Broadway, Mambo Diablo, and Goza Mi Timbal.
In 1990, Puente was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal.
He was also awarded a Grammy at the first Latin Grammy Awards, winning Best Traditional Tropical Album for 'Mambo Birdland'. After a show in Puerto Rico on May 31, 2000, he suffered a massive heart attack and was flown to New York City for surgery to repair a heart valve, but complications developed and he died on May 31, 2000. He was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Puente's youngest son Tito Puente Jr., has continued his father's legacy by presenting many of the same songs in his performances and recordings, while daughter Audrey Puente is a television meteorologist in New York City. Puente's granddaughter, Janeen Puente, is a singer and bandleader.