In the early 1970s, the American social landscape was dominated by the Vietnam War and the birth of several protest movements advocating for equality, justice and the defense of human and civil rights, and from sing sing a historic concert.
In the midst of all that collective turbulence, Eddie Palmieri and his orchestra were giving free rein to their social rebellion with a sweeping musical proposal.
But Palmieri’s rebelliousness was not only reflected in his music, but also in his decision to take his group’s sound to atypical and controversial scenarios that would attract the attention of the authorities.
By the beginning of 1972, Eddie Palmieri had already performed in some correctional institutions, including the Louisville Correctional Facility and the Attica and Rikers Island prisons in New York, but the pianist wanted something more.
In those days, a good friend of Eddie Palmieri was incarcerated in the sinister and historic Sing Sing Correctional Facility, also known as Sing Sing Prison, infamous for the reputation of its inmates and for its executions with electric chairs.
It was at that moment that the idea of an unprecedented performance at the facility was born.
Palmieri’s group was not only the orchestra of choice for Hispanics, it was also favored by the majority of African-Americans in the Latin dance world, and at that time the prison population at Sing Sing was composed mostly of Hispanics and African-Americans, so the stage was perfect.
However, it was not easy to perform a concert in a maximum security prison like the dreaded Sing Sing Prison.
However, at the request of Eddie Palmieri himself and with the coordination of Roulette Records and the prison administration, the performance took place on Wednesday, April 12, 1972.
Sing Sing Correctional Facility is a New York State Department of Correctional Services prison in Ossining, New York State, United States. The name comes from the original name of the town of Ossining.
It was the third prison in New York State, built in 1825. The state legislature allocated $20,100 to purchase the Silver Mine farm. The prison was to be self-supporting and not require a state budget.
Elan Lynds, a jailer at Auburn Prison (New York’s second prison), brought 100 convicts from Auburn to the new prison and employed them for its construction.
Harris A. Smiler was the first person executed by electrocution at Sing Sing on July 7, 1891. From 1914 until 1971, only the electric chair at Sing Sing was used for executions.
On January 8, 1983, more than 600 inmates in B Block started a riot, taking 17 officers hostage; it ended 53 hours later.
Sing Sing in popular culture
Near the end of Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby, the Scribe, it is mentioned that Monroe Edwards died of tuberculosis in Sing Sing Prison.
There is a song called La cárcel de Sing Sing, written by Bienvenido Brens, which tells the story of a prisoner in this jail who was sentenced to death for killing his wife and her lover. The song was made famous by José Feliciano. It is also performed by Colombian singer-songwriter Alci Acosta.
In addition, it was performed live by the band Corizonas (union of Arizona Baby and Los Coronas) in their live album “Dos bandas y un destino”.
There is a song by the salsa group Conjunto Clásico on the album El panadero released in 1986, called A los muchachos de Sing Sing, which has a message of encouragement to convicts.
There is a song by the French-Tunisian singer-songwriter (Michel) Laurent entitled Sing Sing Barbara, from 1971, which tells the story of an inmate who sends desperate messages of love to his wife from this prison.
There is a song by the Madrid group Los Nikis entitled Diez años en Sing Sing, which also gives title to the tribute album to that group.
There is a song by the Basque group Sorotan Bele titled Sing Singatiko Folk & Rolla.
In 1932 the film Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing was shot, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis. The film is based on the book of the same name by Lewis E. Lawes.
In the film Constantine, and in the official Constantine comic book, John Constantine is seen to use the Sing Sing prison chair to connect to hell.
In the film Citizen Kane, protagonist Charles Kane threatens his political rival, Jim Gettys, to send him to Sing Sing, when Gettys informs Kane that he will publish his affair with Susan Alexander in the newspapers if he does not withdraw from the election.
In the film The Pilgrim, Charles Chaplin plays the role of a convict recently escaped from prison, who, when he is at the train station, moves his finger without looking over the board of destinations to choose one at random and falls on Sing Sing, so he repeats the process again when he realizes his unfortunate choice.
In the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly periodically visits inmate Sally Tomato at this prison.
In the movie and musical The Producers, the main characters stop at the same prison and create a musical called Prisoners of Love.
In the video game Driver Parallel Lines, the protagonist spends 28 years in Sing Sing.
In the ABC television series Castle, Sing Sing is cited during an episode of the fourth, fifth and eighth seasons.
In the film noir movie Odds Against Tomorrow, Johnny, the character played by Harry Blafonte, says, “I know they changed his color when they rehabilitated him in Sing Sing.”
In the AMC television series Mad Men, Sing Sing is quoted during an episode of the third season.
In the series Breakout Kings, prisoners are transferred to Sing Sing for their help.
In the song Báilalo como tú quieras, by artist Tego Calderón, the phrase “If rapping was a crime, I’d be in Sing Sing!” appears.
In the horror movie saga Maniac Cop, cop Max Cortell is killed in Sing Sing prison by inmates and is resurrected in the form of a “maniac cop”.
In the Netflix series The Punisher, Arthur mentions to Billy Russo having been imprisoned 10 years in Sing Sing, in episode 4 of the second season.
In the novel “The Ppsychoanalyst” by John Katzenback published in 2002, the Sing Sing prison where a man served six months is named.
In Georges Simenon’s novel The Hound Dog starring Commissar Maigret, one of the characters spends several years in Sing Sing prison.
In the comics “Mortadelo y Filemón”, by cartoonist Francisco Ibáñez, when a character has done something barbaric, he is sentenced to Sing Sing prison and appears with the typical black and white striped prisoner’s suit, chopping stone with an iron ball chained to his leg.
In the series Law and Order the Sing Sing prison is constantly mentioned.
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