Eddie Palmieri shares his insights on small business and music just off his “Eddie at 80′ world tour.
Editor’s note: We wish to thank Tomas Algarin a respected latin music historian, educator, writer, radio producer, stage performer/concert Emcee and also a steadfast Latin Business Today collaborator who helped facilitate this spotlight on Eddie Palmieri with author Carlos Garcia. Enjoy!
I had the distinct honor of speaking with Eddie Palmieri, the legendary salsa band leader of “La Perfecta” fame (the name of his famous “conjunto”). This guy has done it all – shared the stage with: Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Machito, his brother Charlie Palmieri and so many more. He has performed just about everywhere from the Blue Note in Beijing to Carnegie Hall, from the Newport Jazz Festival to Madison Square Garden. Oh and he picked up just a couple of Grammies (10) along the way, and he was the to first to receive a Grammy in the newly established Latin music category in 1975.
Aside from the extraordinary chance to chat with this really funny, vivacious and insightful octogenarian, what does this famous musician have to share with Latino small business owners?
Lots, it turns out.
Learn your stuff, practice your stuff, rehearse forever, and commit to your craft. This was Eddie’s suggestion for how any young (or not so young) person should approach their business – music or any trade. Be prepared. Study. Get your education and earn your diplomas and then get another – he has become a big believer in graduate degrees.
But for Eddie, this all began with listening to his mother. Eddie grew up in a family of musicians, so in many ways he followed in the family business. But he wanted to be a percussionist. Gasp. His mother was not impressed, she wanted him to study piano. It wasn’t until his older brother Charlie (nine years older and his mentor and role model) told him that drummers had to carry all of their big, heavy and bulky drums around and then set them up only to take them down and lug them around again after every show. That finally convinced him to listen to his mother and study piano – hopefully nobody was going to ask him to lug around a baby grand.
Eddie’s lesson: Do your homework, study hard, stay in school and then go back and study some more. And practice, practice, practice – that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.
Video courtesy of NPR Music
Eddie learned the trade from the best of them, literally. But he didn’t leave it there. He listened to new rhythms, new styles, and he changed things up with his own band, La Perfecta, by using a brass front-line of trombones instead of trumpets, and updating the mambo music he loved by extending the arrangements to incorporate the big band sound into a smaller ensemble and provide individual musicians opportunities to solo thus growing his audience and range.
But he doesn’t see himself as being a musical revolutionary, rather an evolutionary – over time Cuban music morphed through the influences he and his contemporaries were subject to into what is now called Salsa. But he doesn’t take credit for the emergence of Latin music onto the world stage, such as Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s US and world wide #1 hit “Despacito”. Rather he bemoans the passing of the legendary musicians like Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Machito, the long-gone venues like the Palladium and master promoters like Ralph Mercado who would organize Salsa music festivals that would run in New York City every Labor Day Weekend. Local commercial radio and vinyl albums (LPs) are also missed.
Eddie’s Lesson: Take what’s given to you, learn it and love it, and then make it your own by adapting it to your times and the influences around you – that’s how you become relevant and how you define your times.
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