Johnny Pacheco, Fania Records Cofounder, Dead at 85

Johnny Pacheco, the legendary bandleader who cofounded Fania Records in the 1960s and became one of the leading architects of the music that would come to be known as salsa, has died. He was 85 years old.

The Dominican-born, New York-raised Pacheco, who lived in New Jersey, died at Holy Name Medical Center, according to published reports. Sources say he had been hospitalized for complications stemming from pneumonia.

Pacheco, a Juilliard-trained multi-instrumentalist who’d found success recording with his band, Pacheco y Su Charanga, sparked a musical revolution when, in 1964, he met Jerry Masucci and together, they founded Fania Records. The two started the label with $5,000, selling albums in Spanish Harlem from the trunks of their cars.

Fania soon became known as the Latin Motown, home to superstars like Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano and Héctor Lavoe, and the breeding ground for seminal artists in the genre of music that would come to be known as “salsa,” a collision of traditional Cuban song and pan-Latin rhythms with American jazz and funk.

Fania’s musical scope was breathtaking. Its roster included Willie Colón, Ruben Blades, Larry Harlow, Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto and Bobby Valentín among many, many others. The Fania sound would rule the ‘70s in New York City, where the Fania All Stars headlined Yankee Stadium in 1973.

When the label closed production in the early 1980s, it boasted over 1,000 albums, 3,000 compositions (under Fania publishing) and approximately 10,000 master tracks, many written or recorded by Pacheco.

A congenial man known for his sense of humor, his limitless enthusiasm and an abundance of talent, Pacheco was a generous artist who happily endorsed a generation of artists –his more than 10 albums alongside Celia Cruz are legendary—and was fearless in his willingness to experiment with all genres of music.

“Maestro of maestros and my good friend,” wrote Marc Anthony via Instagram following the news of Pacheco’s death. “You were there for me from Day 1, and I am forever grateful for your support, for the opportunity to be in your presence and for your amazing legacy.”

In concert, Pacheco was a dynamo, clad in bell bottoms and tight shirts – often rhinestone-studded – that would be soaked in sweat by the end of night after his tireless movement as bandleader and owner of his stage.

“What I most remember about Pacheco is his enthusiasm, his happiness,” says José Alberto “El Canario,” who collaborated numerous times with Pacheco and Cruz. His last show alongside Pacheco was five years ago in the Dominican Republic, when Pacheco turned 80, and many of Fania’s alumni showed up to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. “He always said that when he died, his tombstone would read: ‘Here lies Johnny Pacheco, against his will,’” El Canario told Billboard.

Born Juan Azarías Pacheco Knipping in the Dominican Republic, Pacheco and his family moved to New York when he was 11 years old. A precocious talent, he studied percussion at Juilliard and was already successful with his group when he met Masucci, a former New York City cop who had fallen in love with Cuban music while stationed at Guantanamo Bay during the Korean War.

When Pacheco’s first marriage fell apart, he turned to Masucci, who had studied business and law, to handle the divorce.  Together, they had an idea: a Latin music label. Each of them invested $2,500 and their album, from Pacheco, included an old Cuban song by Reinaldo Bolanos, “Fanía Funché.”

“Between [Jerry and I] we couldn’t come up with a lot of money,” Pacheco told Billboard in 2014, when Fania turned 50. “So I said, ‘Let’s do the recording and see if we sell it.’ The Fania name came from a Cuban song called “Fanía Funché” on that album. The word Fania was catchy. It sounded good. Fania Records.”

Fania took off. The money made from record sales, Pacheco and Masucci reinvested in the label. Their first signing was a Jewish pianist, Larry Harlow. Acts like flutist Bobby Valentín and a teenager trombonist and arranger named Willie Colón followed.

It was Pacheco who suggested to Colón that he change the singer in his band and hire a young Hector Lavoe. “It was a great combination,” Colón told Billboard. “It was total New York. I barely spoke Spanish. And Hector spoke zero English. Hector had a repertoire of all that [Puerto Rican] stuff. He was also a very funny guy. I would write songs that were almost like parodies, satires. It was really something fresh from what was going on. We were doing what rappers are doing now.”

Everything Fania did seemed to be groundbreaking, and often, historic. In 1968, Pacheco had the idea for a superband of the label’s top talent: the Fania All Stars. Live albums and a concert documentary, Our Latin Thing, followed. In August 23, 1973, Musucci rented Yankee Stadium for $280,00 and the Fania All Stars performed for nearly 50,000 people. More than 40 years would pass before another Latin act, Romeo Santos, would play to that size of a crowd at Yankee Stadium.

The boom years continued with a concert for over 100,000 people in Zaire 1974, helmed by Cuban superstar Celia Cruz, as well as history-making albums by Ruben Blades and Colón.

Masucci passed away at 63 in 1997, and the Fania catalog was sold in 2005 to Emusica Entertainment Group. In 2018, the label was bought by Concord Records.

Pacheco’s legacy, however, was never diminished. In 2004, he received the ASCAP Silver Pen Award and in 2005, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.  Pacheco is survived by his wife, María Elena Pacheco, In addition to this wife, Mr. Pacheco’s survivors include two daughters, Norma and Joanne; and two sons, Elis and Phillip.

With additional previous reporting by Judy Cantor Navas. 

Watch the First Trailer for ‘Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell’ Netflix Documentary

A documentary on the life and career of The Notorious B.I.G. is officially coming to Netflix, and the streaming service unveiled the first trailer on Monday (Feb. 15).

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is executive produced by the late legend’s mother Voletta Wallace and his friend and collaborator Diddy, both contributing candid interviews to the film.

“Biggie blew up overnight,” Diddy is heard saying in the trailer, which features snapshots and archive footage of the highs and lows of Biggie’s unparalleled success. “You have no origins from what rap planet this guy came from.”

“Every legend has an origin story,” the trailer’s description on YouTube reads. “Christopher Wallace, AKA The Notorious B.I.G., remains one of Hip-Hop’s icons, renowned for his distinctive flow and autobiographical lyrics. This documentary celebrates his life via rare behind-the-scenes footage and the testimonies of his closest friends and family.”

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell will be available to stream on Netflix on March 1. Watch the trailer below.

Olivia Wilde Gushes Over Harry Styles’ ‘Humility & Grace’ While Filming ‘Don’t Worry Darling’

Olivia Wilde is currently wrapping up her directing role on Don’t Worry Darling, which stars Florence Pugh alongside her rumored new boyfriend Harry Styles.

She gushed over her on-set experience with the 27-year-old “Adore You” singer in a sweet Instagram post on Monday (Feb. 15), which featured a black-and-white photo of Styles in a vintage convertible.

“Little known fact: most male actors don’t want to play supporting roles in female-led films. The industry has raised them to believe it lessens their power (i.e financial value) to accept these roles, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get financing for movies focusing on female stories,” she captioned the snap. “No joke, it is harrrrrd to find actors who recognize why it might be worth it to allow for a woman to hold the spotlight.”

Enter: @harrystyles, our ‘Jack,'” Wilde continued. “Not only did he relish the opportunity to allow for the brilliant @florencepugh to hold center stage as our ‘Alice’, but he infused every scene with a nuanced sense of humanity. He didn’t have to join our circus, but he jumped on board with humility and grace, and blew us away every day with his talent, warmth, and ability to drive backwards.”

See the post hereDon’t Worry Darling takes place in the 1950s and stars Pugh as a housewife who discovers an upsetting truth. Styles plays her husband.

The heart-melting post comes about a month after Wilde joined Styles to attend his manager Jeffrey Azoff’s wedding. In photos shared by Page Six, the “Watermelon Sugar” singer arrived in a sleek black suit and a ribbon tie, holding hands with Wilde, who stunned in a flowing floral dress and pink head wrap. Both were staying safe in black face masks.


Claudia Conway Wants to ‘Get Out of the Drama,’ Auditions for ‘American Idol’

Claudia Conway is making her own name for herself, stepping away from the political trouble within her family and into the spotlight as a hopeful singer.

The 16-year-old daughter of anti-Trump lawyer George Conway and Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway walked into the American Idol audition room on Sunday night’s (Feb. 14) episode, much to the surprise of judge Katy Perry.

“Are you OK?” the “Roar” star asked, to which Claudia replied “No, but yes.” The teenager made headlines and went viral on Twitter and TikTok throughout 2020, openly criticizing her parents, and posting about her strained relationship. In August, her mother stepped down from her White House role as senior advisor, noting that she wanted to spend more time with her family. Her father also left the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans.

“It’s a lot, but I only want to spread love and I love a compromise,” Claudia explained to the judges. “I do agree to disagree with my mom and my dad.”

While George joined Claudia in person for her audition, Kellyanne popped in via video chat to give her daughter a pep talk. “You should be nervous, honey, it’s a very humbling experience,” she told Claudia, who expressed some anxious feelings. “You know how many people like you when you were a little girl until now dream of even having the opportunity to audition for American Idol? This is your time to shine. But remember, honey, winners are people who are willing to lose.”

Claudia continued to explain her relationship with her mother to Perry, who asked if they still “hug” each other. “She loves me. I love her. It’s just, I feel like our relationship’s a little–it’s a little iffy,” Claudia said. “Most of my love, my feelings had been suppressed. So then I got social media, and I was like, ‘Damn, now my voice is being heard.'”

“The Internet can be a very, very dark place, but when life is all going downhill, I have my music,” she continued. “Now, I kind of want to get out of the controversy, get out of the drama, get out of the political whatever and let people know that I am a singer and this is what I want to do. “

Claudia began to sing Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain,” before Perry stopped her and insisted she take off her sky-high heels. The 16-year-old then opted to perform Adele’s “When We Were Young.”

“OK, when you sing this next song, think about when you were young. and there’s a sadness there,” Perry encouraged her. “It’s like you lost your youth because you weren’t able to experience it on your own without all of this noise.”

Claudia showed a massive improvement on her second round, which had her dad welling up with tears while listening outside.

“The second song was much better,” judge Lionel Richie told her, “Because you showed where you could actually take coaching, understand it, the fear factor just left you for a minute and some qualities of your voice came through that I was really impressed with. Now, is it going to be challenging for the rest of the contestants we have on the show? I don’t know.”

“There’s a lot of noise in your life,” Perry concluded. “You have to calm the storm that is around you, meaning, before you sing, you need to get off your phone. You need to stop reading your comments, push it aside because if not, you might not ever rise above your dad or your mom. It’s your choice.”

When it came down to the judges’ vote, Luke Bryan gave her a no, but Perry and Richie gave her a yes, sending Claudia into the Hollywood rounds.

See her full audition below.


Phora Reveals His ‘Love Always Wins’ Playlist Featuring 2Pac, G-Unit and More

Despite Valentine’s Day being over, the love-fest isn’t for West Coast rapper, Phora. After releasing his surprise album heartbreak hotel last Friday (Feb. 12), he looks to inject romance and passion beyond the February holiday.

“Valentine’s Day is always interesting for me. I usually end up staying busy with work on that day, or if I’m in a relationship or talking to someone, I’ll do my best to free up my schedule and do something cool for that person,” he says.

“I feel like it’s a day I show appreciation to the women I love. I’ll send flowers to my mother and little sister to remind them I love them as I hardly see them. Valentine’s Day is cool. It’s good to have a day dedicated to love and not forget love should always be shown throughout. No matter the day.”

In honor of Valentine’s Day and the long weekend, Phora doles out his “Love Always Wins” Playlist. Check it below.

Ozzy Osbourne Says He’s Feeling ‘Relieved’ After Getting His First COVID-19 Shot: Watch

Ozzy Osbourne is feeling “relieved” after receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

During a Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) interview on British talk show Loose Women, the 72-year-old rock legend appeared alongside his wife Sharon to discuss his experience receiving the shot.

“It felt like I was being stabbed,” said a shirtless Ozzy, who was cuddled up in bed with Sharon. “My arm was sore yesterday, but I’m glad I got it, you know?”

He added, “As soon as I got it, I felt relieved.”

Sharon, 68, noted that she’ll get the vaccination in the coming weeks.

Ozzy has previously spoken about wanting to receive the two-dose vaccine because of his health issues. “I want to get the shot,” he recently told SiriusXM. “I look at it like this — if I don’t get the shot and I get the virus, there’s a good chance I ain’t going to be here.”

Last December, Sharon revealed that she tested positive for COVID-19 and was briefly hospitalized with the virus.

“I wanted to share I’ve tested positive for Covid 19,” the The Talk star wrote on social media. “After a brief hospitalization, I’m now recuperating at a location away from Ozzy (who has tested negative) while The Talk is on scheduled hiatus. Everyone please stay safe and healthy.”

In September of last year, Sharon revealed on an episode of The Talk that her granddaughter Minnie, Jack Osbourne’s 3-year-old daughter, had tested positive for the virus.

Watch Ozzy and Sharon’s interview on Loose Women below.

JoJo Siwa Calls Girlfriend Kylie the ‘Most Perfect Person Ever’ in Sweet Valentine’s Day Message

JoJo Siwa was bursting with love on her first Valentine’s Day with new girlfriend Kylie.

The teen superstar, who recently announced she was part of the LGBTQ+ community, took to Instagram on Sunday (Feb. 14) to express her love and appreciation for Kylie, who encouraged her to come out.

“It’s my first valentines dayyyy!! No one in the world makes me as happy as this girl does,” Siwa captioned her post, where she’s seen smiling from ear to ear while getting a piggyback ride from Kylie.

She added, “I’m so thankful to have fallen in love with the most perfect person ever who makes me smile 24/7. I love you more than you’ll ever know!”

Siwa’s Instagram post also included a cute video of Kylie shooting a paper straw wrapper at her girlfriend’s cheek while dining out with friends.

Earlier this month, Siwa revealed a glimpse of the couple’s relationship to celebrate their one-month anniversary. Her post included snapshots of the good times she’s been sharing with Kylie, from wearing fuzzy Grinch-themed onesies to singing Justin Bieber’s “As Long as You Love Me” in the car.

“After being my best friend for over a year, January 8th 2021 I got to start calling this exceptional human my Girlfriend… and Since then I’ve been the happiest I have ever been!” Siwa captioned the series of posts. “She seriously is the most loving, supportive, happiest, protective, and just the most beautiful perfect person in the world. And I get to call her mine! Happy one month to my girl! I love you more and more everyday!”

The Nickelodeon star announced she was part of the LGBTQ+ community on Jan. 22 when she posted a now-viral picture on Twitter of a new T-shirt her cousin gifted her that read, “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever.” Earlier that month, she shared a TikTok video of her lip-syncing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and received lots of love and support from fellow TikTok stars and friends.

See Siwa’s romantic Valentine’s Day post here.