Passion and Pain The Life of Hector Lavoe

Passion and Pain The Life of Hector Lavoe
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  • ISBN-13: 9780312373078
  • ISBN: 0312373074
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press


Shapiro, Marc


1 Chasing the Legend 19932006 Larry Harlow does not go to too many funerals. The veteran producer-musician gets emotional at funerals. He cries at funerals. But Harlow had been a good friend of Hector Lavoe's, and so, when asked to be one of those who carried the singer's coffin to its final resting place in St. Raymond's Cemetery in the heart of the Bronx on July 2, 1993, he could not refuse. But by this time, the citywide celebration of Hector Lavoe's life and death had already been going on for two solid days and nights. Hector's music could be heard pouring out of the windows and off the stoops of nearly every tenement and apartment building in the Bronx and Queens. People were wandering the streets in a near zombielike state. Young Latino men, normally full to overflowing with machismo, were dabbing their eyes and trying their hardest to avoid openly weeping. The women were making no pretense of expressing their sadness with wails of despair. Impromptu toasts of cheap beer were made all over the city. Some passed joints around in his memory. Almost everybody had a story. The night they saw Hector rock the joint at the Corso and at Hunt's Point. What song was playing when they lost their virginity. The song that had been playing when they got married. The song that had been playing mournfully in the background when someone died. Following his death on June 29, 1993, Hector Lavoe's body had been taken to the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, situated at the intersection of 81st Street and Madison Avenue. The funeral home was right in the middle of sacred ground. It was the place where salsa was born and where hard-core fans would line up on a nightly basis to listen to the best the music had to offer. It was fitting that one of salsa's shining lights should be seen on his turf by his fans one last time. For the next two days, thousands of mourners would file through the funeral home and up to the casket, where they would pay their final respects. The funeral home attendants had done their job well, for Hector, in his death repose, looked like everything he had not been the last few years of his life: healthy and at peace. The line remained constant around one very large city block, and it snaked and shimmied to the rhythm of Hector Lavoe's music, seemingly coming from every conceivable direction. The day of the memorial service for Hector Lavoe was an emotional homage that mourned his passing and celebrated his life. Hundreds packed St. Cecilia's Catholic Church on 106th Street, the literal heart of the New York Barrio. Inside, Hector was praised as a man of simple passions who had fallen to temptation but who was now with God. People came forward to recall the good times with Hector, his kindness, his generosity. For a few moments, the hard, self-destructive life Hector Lavoe had led was forgotten. He was far from a saint, but in those moments of praise inside the church, he was far from a sinner as well. Outside, seemingly thousands more who could not get in waved Puerto Rican flags, and pictures of Hector, and mourned the singer's passing. In Spanish, the crowd shouted, "Hector Lavoe lives! You are eternal!" and other odes to Hector Lavoe the man, the cultural icon, and the flesh-and-blood personification of Puerto Rican identity. Lavoe's music blared from hundreds of boom boxes and mixed easily with the sea of Puerto Rican flags swaying in the hot New York breezes. Following the service, Harlow left the churcShapiro, Marc is the author of 'Passion and Pain The Life of Hector Lavoe', published 2007 under ISBN 9780312373078 and ISBN 0312373074.

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