On November 1st, 1955, Alvaro José Arroyo González, better known as “Joe Arroyo”, was born in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
He was an excellent Colombian singer and composer of salsa and tropical music, considered one of the greatest interpreters of music in his country.
His songs were national and international hits, he won multiple Gold records throughout his career, among them, 18 Gold Congos and Super Congos won in the Festival of Orchestras of the Carnival of Barranquilla.
Among his most relevant songs are “La rebelión”, “Tania”, “Mary”, “En Barranquilla me quedo”, “El Ausente”, “Tumbatecho”, “Centurión de la Noche”, “Manyoma”, “La noche”, “La rumbera”, “La guarapera”, “El trato”, “Con Gusto y Ganas”, among others.
In November 2011, Arroyo won the Latin Grammy award for best singer/songwriter at the 2011 Latin Grammy ceremony.
Born and raised in the Nariño neighborhood of Cartagena, Arroyo began his career at a very early age, when from the age of eight he sang in bars and brothels in Tesca, the tolerance zone of his hometown.
In his early days he sang with groups such as Los Caporales del Magdalena, Manuel Villanueva y su Orquesta and the Supercombo Los Diamantes (the last two in 1970); in 1971 he recorded with La Protesta.
To look back, he started with the song “Manyoma”, which is Fruko’s, but has my arrangements. That’s where that hit was born, but it really came on strong when I had been with my band for four years. It is a sound that has soka, salsa, African sounds, cumbia, sea breeze and a 50% that comes from me but I have no fucking idea what it is.
Joe Arroyo commenting on the origins of joesón.
In 1973 he got his big break when he signed for Discos Fuentes after the producer, author and artistic director of Discos Fuentes, Isaac Villanueva, in the Suri Salcedo park in Barranquilla, was struck by a “pelao” who sang with the vibe of Cuban Celia Cruz. The announcer Mike Char had recommended him to Fruko and told him that he could see him in action at the El Escorpión stand, in the Pradomar (Atlántico) beach resort, as the voice of the house orchestra, La Protesta.
On Sunday Villanueva was there. And it caused him more impact. He spoke with Leandro Boiga, director of La Protesta, and obtained permission to take him to rehearse days later to Medellín. Thus Joe Arroyo joined Fruko y sus Tesos, an orchestra with which he achieved great fame and with which he recorded uninterruptedly until 1981.
Between 1974 and 1975 he performed with Los Líderes (Los barcos en la bahía), between 1976 and 1981 with The Latin Brothers (La guarapera), in 1976 with Los Bestiales, in 1978 with Pacho Galán (Volvió Juanita) and with La Sonora Guantanamera, and in 1980 with Los Titanes.13 He also sang in other groups such as Piano Negro, Afro Son, Los Rivales, Los Bestiales, Wanda Kenya, los Hermanos Zuleta, el Binomio de Oro, Juan Piña, Mario Gareña, Gabriel “Rumba” Romero, Claudia Osuna, Claudia de Colombia, Oscar Golden, Yolandita y los Carrangueros, among others.
In 1981 he founded his own orchestra, La Verdad, with which he dedicated himself to mixing diverse musical influences, mainly salsa with coastal music (cumbia, porro, chandé, among others) and with diverse Caribbean rhythms (socca, reggae) until he created his own rhythm, the “joesón”.
Some of the hits recorded with La Verdad are classics of the coastal music that earned him many awards and being considered the King of the Carnival of Barranquilla, where he won 10 Gold Congos and a Gold Supercongo (created especially for him) in the Festival of Orchestras.
One of his biggest hits was “La Rebelión” (1986), a song that tells the story of an African couple, slaves of a Spaniard, in Cartagena de Indias in the 17th century.
The piano solo, played by Chelito De Castro, and Arroyo’s soneos made “La Rebelión” an immediate hit that is still danced to at parties and discotheques throughout the continent.
In Mexico the same phenomenon happened since the song was first published in the LP “Tequendama de Oro Volumen 7” by Discos Peerless in 1987 and its LP “Joe Arroyo y su Orquesta La Verdad, Grandes éxitos”, still to this date the song is very popular in the sonidero movement.
Other of Joe Arroyo’s most successful songs were “El Caminante”, “Confundido”, “Manyoma”, “Tania” (dedicated to his daughter) and “El Ausente”, all recorded with Fruko.
The album “Fuego en mi mente” (1988) contains songs with influences from African music and contemporary salsa. With “La guerra de los callados” (1990), he made his first Spanish tour. In 1993 he released “Fuego” and played again in Spain.
Joe Arroyo recorded with Discos Tropical (1970-1971), Discos Fuentes (1973-1990) and Discos Sony (1991-2002). After an 11-year stint with Discos Sony, he returned to Discos Fuentes in Medellín in 2003, where he recorded his latest works: “Se armó la moña en carnaval” (2004), “Mosaico de trabalenguas” (2006) and “El Super Joe” (2007).
Joe Arroyo is one of the five Colombians who have appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Since the early 1980s, Joe Arroyo suffered multiple health problems that prevented him from touring and for which he was considered dead several times.
On September 7, 1983, he was presumed dead after suffering from a retrospective thyroid condition that kept him away from the stage. In 2000, he nearly died in Barcelona due to a diabetic coma and pneumonia.9
His medical history recorded ischemia, renal and motor problems and difficulty singing. In some concerts he even had to be helped up on stage due to weakness and disorientation.
In 1997, despite his health problems, he made a special appearance in the soap opera Perro Amor.
The singer’s health was affected on April 26, 2011 and he was hospitalized since late June 2011 in the clinic La Asunción de Barranquilla in intensive care for a clinical picture of hypertensive crisis, ischemic heart disease and diabetes mellitus with simple decompensation.
He was connected to an artificial respirator, underwent dialysis and a tracheotomy. His condition caused him to be considered dead on social networks, which was denied by both his relatives and the hospital.
All this took place in the midst of a controversy between the singer’s former family (his ex-wife Mary Luz Alonso and his children) and his friends, who considered that Joe was being exploited by his wife Jacqueline Ramón and his musical representative, who claimed that Joe Arroyo was not suffering from major health problems and announced his early return to the stage.
He died on July 26, 2011, at 7:45 (UTC -5), at La Asunción clinic in Barranquilla due to a cardiorespiratory arrest, as a result of a multiorgan failure (high blood pressure, infections, kidney problems) that had kept him in intensive care since Monday, June 27 of the same year.
He was buried on July 27, 2011 at the Jardines de la Eternidad cemetery in Puerto Colombia.
On October 19, 2011, his body was transferred to a special area for illustrious characters in the Jardines de la Eternidad cemetery.
On December 17, 2011, the Mayor’s Office of Barranquilla unveiled a statue of Joe Arroyo in the Musicians’ Park.
Arroyo had signed with Cenpro TV to produce a miniseries about his life, once Alejo, la búsqueda del amor of Caracol Televisión was finished, but in 2000 Cenpro TV went bankrupt after the crisis of public TV in Colombia.
Between June and December 2011 RCN channel aired a telenovela based on the singer’s life called El Joe “La Leyenda”. Sadly the singer passed away during the broadcast of the series.
After his death, Jacqueline Ramón and Mary Luz Alonso (two of Arroyo’s ex-wives) decided to build two museums respectively. Jacqueline’s museum will exhibit various items that stood out during her musical career, such as the 18 Golden Congos won at the Barranquilla Carnival.
In the future, the museum is expected to be moved to a more appropriate location, once the approval of the Ministry of Culture has been obtained.
A wax statue designed by an American sculptor will also be exhibited there.
The other museum, located in the home of Mary Luz Alonso Llanos and her daughters Eykol and Nayalibe Arroyo, will also feature articles, photos and other Congos de Oro, in addition to a statue.
In July 2011, the Mayor’s Office of Barranquilla decided to name one of the stations of the city’s mass transit system, Transmetro, “Estación de Retorno Joe Arroyo”, in tribute to the singer’s musical legacy. According to the then Manager of Transmetro, Manuel Fernández Ariza, the Joe Arroyo station is the most important station of the integrated transportation system.
On March 1, 2012, a Colombian scientist discovered a new species of bee on the Colombian Caribbean Coast that was named in honor of the singer, the Geotrigona Joearroyoi.
On the same day of Joe Arroyo’s death, singer Checo Acosta composed “Adiós Centurión” while on a trip from Medellín to Barranquilla.
The video and song were released months later. Another song that paid tribute to him was titled El Rey Del Carnaval, with the participation of Juan Carlos Coronel, Petrona Martínez, Checo Acosta himself, the pianist and singer Chelito de Castro, Ricardo El Pin Ojeda, who was timbalero of the orchestra La Verdad and also with Eykol Tato Arroyo, daughter of the Maestro. This song was included in the commemorative album made by Cervecería Águila.
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