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Johnny Pacheco, who popularized salsa music in the US, dies at 85

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By Scottie Andrew, CNN
Updated 10:50 AM ET, Tue February 16, 2021

(CNN) — Johnny Pacheco played music that made it impossible to sit still.

The Dominican-born multi-instrumentalist experimented with different Latin American musical styles, though he was particularly enamored with Afro-Cuban genres like charanga and pachanga. He was a bandleader, producer and record label head with an eye for talent, and his famed Fania Records would make stars out of Celia Cruz and other salsa legends.
For his contributions to the genre, he’s rightfully earned the title “godfather of salsa.”
Pacheco, a pioneering musician who helped popularize salsa music in the US, died this week, his former record label and his wife, Cuqui Pacheco, confirmed. He was 85.

    He was inspired by Cuban music

    The artist’s musical education started from birth. His father, Rafael, was a bandleader in the Dominican Republic, and Pacheco grew up playing percussion. He developed his musical taste over shortwave radio, listening to broadcasts from Cuba and learning “son Cubano,” or “the Cuban sound,” the country’s signature genre that informs other Latin American musical styles.
    When he and his family moved to the Bronx in the 1940s to escape dictator Rafael Trujillo’s oppressive regime, he picked up more instruments, including the accordion, violin, flute, saxophone and clarinet — his father’s primary instrument.
    Pacheco went on to attend the Juilliard School, where he studied percussion. The breadth of his musical talent earned him guest gigs with several Latin bands in the city until he finally led his own orchestra in the early ’60s. He called the group Pacheco Y Su Charanga, named for the Cuban ensemble, or “charanga,” that plays “danzón,” another Cuban genre inspired by European classical music.
    In 1962, Pacheco hired attorney Jerry Masucci, an Italian-American former New York police officer, to handle his divorce, according to Billboard. In Masucci, a fan of the Afro-Cuban sound Pacheco helped popularize in New York, he found a worthy collaborator. In 1963, the two founded a record label that would go on to change the fact of Latin music in the US — Fania Records.

    His label created salsa stars

    Fania’s rise started humbly enough, with Masucci and Pacheco selling albums out of their cars in Spanish Harlem, according to Billboard’s 2014 oral history of Fania Records. He courted talent who were drawn to his New York twist on Cuban and Puerto Rican genres like merengue and mambo, and by the late ’60s, he’d created a supergroup called the Fania All-Stars.
    Their specialty? A unique blend of Latino musical styles, mostly up-tempo, marked by strong percussion and a musical ensemble that could steal the show from the singer.
    The public called it “salsa.”
    “At first we didn’t think we were anything special, until every place we went, the lines were unbelievable,” Pacheco told NPR in 2006. They tried to rip the shirts off our backs. It reminded me of the Beatles.”
    The Fania All-Stars’ lineup changed over time, though its best known members include Cruz, beloved Puerto Rican salsa singer Héctor Lavoe and jazz pioneer Ray Barretto. But Pacheco was its constant. He played on records with the label’s talent, produced their albums and served as their bandleader in live concerts.
    “I wanted to have a company that treated everybody like family, and it came true,” Pacheco told the Pennsylvania paper The Morning Call in 2003. “That was my dream.”
    And at the same time Pacheco’s All Stars were going mainstream, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and Latin Americans were establishing a new identity in the US. The music of Fania inspired many Afro Cubans and Puerto Ricans to become involved politically, political science professor Jose Cruz told NPR in 2006.
    Perhaps the best evidence of salsa’s impact occurred in August 1973, when the Fania All-Stars performed to a crowd of more than 44,000 at Yankee Stadium. Attendees hung Puerto Rican flags throughout the stadium and at one point stormed the field during an especially riveting conga duel between Barretto and Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria.
    “Johnny Pacheco started screaming and asking people not to enter the field,” said Ray Collazo, a Puerto Rican DJ who attended the historic concert, in a 2008 interview with ESPN. “But the more he said it, the more people jumped in.”
    The concert ended early after the field-storming but was commemorated with a live album and a documentary.

    The end of Fania Records

    Fania’s success eventually waned as salsa was eclipsed by other burgeoning genres, and it stopped recording in 1979. But its success signified a shift in the American musical landscape, pushing it in a more international direction.
    In 1999, Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars returned to the stage, this time at Madison Square Garden. At the time, the New York Times described their style as “city music: fast, crisp and unstoppable,” punctuated by competing brass and bongos.
    Pacheco was honored for his musical achievements throughout the ’90s, receiving the the Dominican Republic’s Presidential Medal of Honor and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Governor’s Award, both in 1996. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
    He continued to tour with an orchestra in the early aughts, playing many of the same songs he wrote for his Fania artists. The “enthusiasm” powered his performances, he said.
    Despite his fractured relationship with Fania co-founder Masucci and his early exit from the label, he told Billboard he was still “very proud” of the work he did then.
    “I put together a group that was unbelievable,” he told Billboard in 2014. “It’s been 50 years, and we’re still like a family.”
      His Fania family remembered him on Facebook, praising Pacheco for his contributions to salsa.
      “He was much more than a musician, bandleader, writer, arranger and producer; he was a visionary,” the record label wrote. “His music will live on eternally, and we are forever grateful to have been a part of his wonderful journey.”

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      The third ‘Spider-Man’ film finally has a title

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      By Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
      Updated 6:49 PM ET, Wed February 24, 2021

      (CNN) — Until Wednesday, rumors about the title of the third Spider-Man film have been a web of lies. But the truth has been revealed.

      Tom Holland will swing into theaters in December in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Sony and Marvel have confirmed.
      The film will be the third installment of the Holland-led franchise that has also included “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
      Director Jon Watts, who directed the first two, returns for this film.
        Earlier this week, cast members Holland, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon presented a series of fake titles (like “Spider-Man: Home Slice” and “Spider-Man: Phone Home”) on social media, drumming up speculation that the official title would soon be revealed.
        The film is set to be released December 17, 2021.

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        DWI charges dropped against Bruce Springsteen, who pleads guilty to just drinking in the park

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        By Evan Simko-Bednarski, CNN
        Updated 12:54 PM ET, Wed February 24, 2021

        (CNN) — Bruce Springsteen pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he imbibed alcohol at New Jersey’s Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, despite knowing it was prohibited.

        “I had two small shots of Tequila,” Springsteen said in a virtual appearance before New Jersey Federal Court.
        The plea came after federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges that Springsteen was operating a vehicle under the influence and driving recklessly, charges Assistant US Attorney Adam Baker said the government would not be able to prove.
        “The evidence we reviewed indicates that after the defendant’s arrest, he submitted to a breath test at the ranger station, and his BAC reading was .02, which as the court is aware is well under the legal limit of .08,” Baker said.
          Noting that the prohibition on alcoholic drinks at Sandy Hook was two years old, and noting Springsteen’s otherwise clean criminal record, Judge Anthony Mautone sentenced The Boss to pay a $500 fine plus $40 in court fees.
          While Springsteen has often sung about driving “suicide machines” down the New Jersey Turnpike, bragged of having his “carburetor, baby, cleaned and checked — with her lines blown out she’s running like a turbo jet,” and sang of being “sprung from cages on Highway 9 — chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and stepping out over the line,” Mautone remarked on the singer’s clean driving record.
          “I have in front of me the driver’s abstract of this defendant, going all the way back to 1973,” Mautone said. “There’s three violations in the whole abstract. In fact, two of them aren’t even violations and the third one is use of a hand-held cell device. Rarely would you see a driver’s abstract so devoid of any entries as I see before me, Mr. Springsteen.”
          Springsteen was arrested at Gateway National Recreation Area on November 14 and charged with DWI, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area, according to a spokesperson for the National Park Service.
          That night, a source close to the singer said earlier this month, Springsteen took a shot of alcohol with fans in the park after taking a photo with them. The source added that Springsteen is known to take photographs with fans. “That’s typical Bruce,” the source said.
          One officer said they observed Springsteen “consume a shot of Patron tequila and then get on his motorcycle and start the engine,” according to a probable cause statement obtained by CNN.
          Springsteen told the officer he had consumed two shots of tequila in the previous 20 minutes, according to the probable cause statement.
          “SPRINGSTEEN smelt strongly of alcohol coming off his person and had glassy eyes,” the officer said in the statement, adding he “was visibly swaying back and forth while I observed his eyes.”
            Springsteen, according to the officer, took 45 steps during the “walk and turn” test “instead of the instructed 18.”
            Prior to the screening, the officer said he approached Springsteen and informed him alcohol was prohibited in the park and asked whether Springsteen was leaving, to which “he confirmed he was going to drive out of the park,” the statement said.

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            BTS covers Coldplay and more on MTV Unplugged debut

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            By Chloe Melas, CNN
            Updated 10:15 AM ET, Wed February 24, 2021

            (CNN) — BTS made their debut on MTV’s Unplugged Tuesday night and played some of their greatest hits.

            The international K-pop sensation, which is comprised of Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook, performed “Telepathy” for the first time live, along with “Blue & Grey” during Tuesday night’s broadcast. BTS, which stands for Beyond The Scene, broadcast live from Seoul, South Korea.

            The group recently told CNN that they felt they needed to give their audience new music amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
            “If everything went according to plan, we’d be on tour right now, but the pandemic has changed everything,” Suga said. “So we thought about what we can do, and what we can do best at this point, in this situation. Everyone is going through such a difficult time, so we wanted to cheer them up.”

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            Taylor Swift’s re-recorded ‘Love Story’ is back on top of the charts

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            By Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
            Updated 9:08 PM ET, Mon February 22, 2021

            (CNN) — Taylor Swift’s re-recording of “Love Story” is now a success story.

            “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” debuted at No. 1 on this week’s Hot Country Songs chart, according to Billboard.
            The song is shockingly Swift’s first No. 1 debut on that chart. It is also her 8th career No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, the last one being 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
            “Love Story” was originally on Swift’s album “Fearless,” which was released in 2008. Swift has been hard at work re-recording that album after losing the rights to her master recordings predating 2019’s “Lover” after they were sold to a company owned by music manager Scooter Braun. (Braun’s company sold them in late 2020.)
              Swift’s re-recording — titled “Fearless (Taylor’s version)” — will be released April 9.

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              Mandy Moore welcomes baby boy with husband Taylor Goldsmith

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              By Marianne Garvey, CNN
              Updated 6:19 PM ET, Tue February 23, 2021

              (CNN) — Mandy Moore has welcomed her first child.

              The “This Is Us” actress took to Instagram on Tuesday to announce that she and her husband Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer of the folk rock band Dawes, are now parents to a baby boy.
              “Gus is here,” Moore captioned a picture of the baby in an adorable blue onesie. “Our sweet boy, August Harrison Goldsmith. He was punctual and arrived right on his due date, much to the delight of his parents. We were prepared to fall in love in all sorts of brand new ways, but it goes beyond anything we could have ever imagined. M + T.”
              In January, Moore told Romper that she had high expectations for her child.
                “I want to raise an intelligent, feminist, loving, compassionate young man, who respects women, and who understands boundaries,” she told the publication.
                  Moore also sang her husband’s praises, saying he was born to be a dad.
                  “I think he’s been suited to be a father pretty much his whole life,” she said. “He’s been gearing up for this. Like in the morning, it’s funny, I’ll reach for my phone and he’ll reach right for whatever baby book he’s reading.”

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