Johnny Pacheco Dead: Salsa Musician & Fania Records Co-Founder Was 85 – Deadline

Johnny Pacheco, the salsa music pioneer who co-founded Fania Records, has died. He was 85. The label announced hiss death Monday afternoon on Instagram.

“He was much more than a musician, bandleader, writer, arranger and producer, he was a visionary,” the Instagram post read. “His music will live on eternally and we are forever grateful to have been part of his wonderful journey.”

The Dominican Republic newspaper Diario Libre reported that multi-instrumentalist Pacheco, who popularized the term “salsa” for the genre, died after being hospitalized with pneumonia.

Pacheco teamed with Jerry Masucci to found Fania Records in 1964. Since its creation, the record label helped propel like likes of Celia Cruz, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, Bobby Valentin and others into stardom. The multi-instrumentalist Pacheco also was a nine-time Grammy nominee, racking up noms for categories including Best Tropical Latin Performance and Best Latin Recording.

Born Juan Azarías Pacheco Knipping on March 25, 1935 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, the singer was known for a host of numbers including “Quimbara,” “Toro Mata” and “Mi Gente.” In 1946, Pacheco and his family moved to New York City, where he continued to foster his love for music, taking up a variety of instruments including flute and accordion.

While in New York, Pacheco kicked off his professional career playing with Gil Suarez and collaborating with Eddie Palmeri, Barry Rogers, Al Santiago, Ray Santos and Mike Collazo to form The Chuchulecos Boys. Years after meeting with other musicians including Charlie Palmieri and Alegre Records’ Al Santiago, Pacheco met Masucci to form Fania Records.

While at Fania, Pacheco recorded a live studio album featuring the label’s impressive roster of salsa musicians, who soon would be known as the Fania All-Stars.

In 1996, former Dominican Republic president Joaquin Balauger honored Pacheco with the Presidential Medal of Honor. Nine years later, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences celebrated Pacheco by handing him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

A number of films including The Mambo Kings, A Woman’s Revenge and Born Romantic featured Pacheco’s songs.

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