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Marvin Santiago

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Marvin Santiago (December 26, 1947 - October 6, 2004) was a Puerto Rican salsa singer who became famous all across Latin America during the 1970s. He was also a part-time comedian on Puerto Rican television. His brother, Billiván Santiago, had some success in Puerto Rico as a plena singer.

Santiago was born in San Juan. After residing in various neighborhoods in the city he moved to the Nemesio Canales public housing project in his youth; he was eventually nicknamed “El Grifo de Canales” (“The kinky-haired, fair-skinned-one of Nemesio Canales”) by close friends and fans. Santiago was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age. He was groomed as a bolero singer (a genre he didn’t feel comfortable with) and was a struggling salsa singer (at one time he sang with Rafael Cortijo) until 1971, when he joined Bobby Valentin, another type 1 diabetic, as a duo. Their first LP, “Rompecabezas”, (“Puzzle”) sold well, and their second LP, “Soy Boricua” (“I’m a Boricua”) is considered by many to be a salsa classic and an informal patriotic anthem for Puerto Ricans. That album’s title song and the Tite Curet Alonso-written “Pirata de la Mar” (“Pirate of the Seas”), both sung by Santiago, became major international hits. The duo continued making hits during the decade of the 1970s, and they were invited to form part of the Fania All Stars, an exclusive salsa conglomerate of Fania Records musicians that showcased other performers such as Celia Cruz, Rubén Blades, Pellin Rodriguez, Roberto Roena, Andy Montanez and many others.

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