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Joe Bataan

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No recording artist has more impeccable street credentials than Joe Bataan, the originator of the New York Latin Soul style that paralleled Latin boogaloo and anticipated disco. His musical experience began with street corner doo-wop in the 1950s, and came to include one of the first rap records to hit the charts, 1979’s “Rap-O, Clap-O”. In between these milestones, he recorded classic albums like St. Latin’s Day Massacre, a perennial favorite in the salsa market, Salsoul, which gave the record label its name and helped spark the national explosion of urban dance music, and Afrofilipino, which included one of the very earliest New York disco hits, an instrumental version of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Bottle”.

Born Peter Nitollano, of African-American/Filipino parents, Joe Bataan grew up in Spanish Harlem, where he ran with Puerto Rican gangs and absorbed R&B, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Rican musical influences. His music career followed a pair of stints in Coxsackie State Prison. Self taught on the piano, he organized his first band in 1965 and scored his first recording success in 1967 with “Gypsy Woman” on Fania Records, . The tune was a hit with the New York Latin market despite the English lyrics sung by Joe, and exemplified the nascent Latin Soul sound.

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