Willie Colón, Bronx-born of Puerto Rican grandparents, has fused his musical talent, his passion for humanity, and his community and political activism into an extraordinary, multifaceted career.
His achievements in all his activities are widely recognized. As musician, composer, arranger, singer, and trombonist, as well as producer and director, he has created 39 productions that have sold over ten million records worldwide. As director of the band "Legal Alien" he has won 11 Grammy nominations, has fifteen gold and five platinum records, has collaborated with such musical greats as Ruben Blades, David Byrne, Hector Lavoe, and Celia Cruz.
His music, which has powerfully influenced modern Latin jazz, reflects both rhythmic traditional lyrics and the cries of farewell and hope from a new generation pressured to abandon their homeland to congregate in urban America. William Anthony Colón Román (his full name) learned the lyrics from his Abuela (grandmother) Antonia, as she rocked him to sleep during his childhood in the heart of the Puerto Rican Bronx. Her strong beliefs and personality also powerfully influenced his devotion to his cultural roots. During his musical and cultural odyssey from the Bronx to the world scene, he moved from a fascination with the tropical paradise of his ancestors to the stark street images of rebellious youth and social struggle and finally to a mature fusion of joy and injustice, beauty and suffering, romance and realism. He has become an articulate and responsible public figure -- clever at injecting political messages into his music without becoming overbearing.
As a community leader, he has won both local affection and national recognition. Colón, now 47, first emerged as a leader and organizer at age 16; he has since been a civil rights, community and political activist and well as being Chair of the Association of Hispanic Arts, a member of the Latino Commission on AIDS, a member of the United Nations Immigrant Foundation, President of the Arthur Schomburg Coalition for a Better New York, member of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a founding member of the New Rochelle (N.Y.) Hispanic Advisory Board, founding member of the New Rochelle Judicial System Committee and various other projects and organizations too numerous too mention.
In 1993 he participated in the Presidential Inaugural Ceremonies, and in the following year, President Clinton invited Colón to become a member of the Presidents Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He declined this distinction in order to run in New York States 17th Congressional District primary. In 1991 he was awarded Yale University's CHUBB Fellowship, a political recognition he shares with the late John F. Kennedy, Moshe Dyan, Jesse Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, to mention a few. In 1995 he became the first minority to serve on the prestigious ASCAP National Board. In 1996 he was nominated as one of the 100 most Influential U.S. Hispanics by Hispanic Business Magazine. Since May 1997 he's a spokesman of the internationally known organization CARE.
Along with all these commitments, Willie Colón gives priority to spending time with his wife, Julia, and their four sons, and indulging in such other interests as flying (he is a licensed private pilot) and computer programming. Through his work and positive message he has developed into a national and internationally respected socio-political voice.
Copyright Klaus Reiter (firstname.lastname@example.org). Last updated: 4.5.97.