Cuba has given the world a large number of artists who have left the name of the country very high, so it is always a good moment to talk about them. Such is the case of arranger, composer, singer and musician Felix ”Pupi” Legarreta, who sadly left this world last month.
Given that this great exponent of Cuban music and the charanga genre is no longer with us, we think it is a great opportunity to remember a little of his career and all the way to becoming the great artist he was.
Felix Legarreta was born in 1940 in the city of Cienfuegos, Cuba, and from the very early age, his father nicknamed him ”pupi”, as he would be called for the rest of his artistic life. ‘’Puppy in Spanish means ”cachorro” (a very young dog), so this pronunciation was very interesting to Americans.
Around this same time, Pupi was not really interested in music as a profession, as his thing was carpentry at the time. However, he began being affected by severe asthma attacks due to the dust used in his daily work, so it was recommended to his father to take him away and make him dedicate himself to something else that would not damage his health.
This is how the young boy decided to become a barber and met a friend with whom he started taking music lessons, which could be considered as the first contact he would have with music.
The first instrument Pupi played was the violin. He admits it was not easy to learn how to play it, but with effort and dedication, he managed to become really good at music. However, he was faced with another challenge that would complicate the realization of his new dream: lack of money.
Like the majority of families in Cuba at that time, Pupi’s was also going through a complex economic situation, so buying everything he needed for his musical training was very difficult. However, it did not stop his father from getting down to work and raising the money necessary to buy his son his first violin.
In a 2010 interview, Pupi revealed that it took his father more than two years to raise 60 pesos to buy a used violin at a pawn shop, as it was the only way he could afford the instrument for the young boy.
Formal beginnings in music
When he decided to travel to Havana, he was given the opportunity to play Orquesta Sensación, with which he earned about eight pesos a month to cover some of his basic expenses. It was very difficult for him to live with that little, but music helped him to support himself.
However, little by little he worked his way up and earned the respect of his fellow musicians, who consider him for their own projects.
In 1959, music also allowed him to travel to the United States, specifically to the state of California, but it would not be too long before he decided to try his luck in New York. Once there, he collaborated with artists such as Mongo Santamaría, Charlie Palmieri, Johnny Pacheco, Machito, Tito Puente and many more.
Fania All Stars
In 1964, he started collaborating with the Fania All Stars, which had more than 24 instruments, including trumpets, pianos, basses, singers and more. Pupi was so shocked that he could not refuse to work with the world-famous orchestra, as this number of musicians was something he had never seen before.
In total, he recorded between five to seven albums with La Fania on which Pupi was taken into account when issuing opinions about his work. If the artist considered something was not quite right and wanted to change it, the orchestra did whatever was necessary to satisfy him with the results of the recordings.
The only criticism that the Cuban issued towards the orchestra is regarding the excessive focus on the Puerto Rican market, in fact, the vast majority of musicians were Puerto Rican. This caused them to neglect other markets that may be useful for Fania. However, this does not exclude all the positive things that came for those involved during the time this union lasted.
When his time in the orchestra ended, he was working for an electricity company in New Jersey, but his family was in Philadelphia, so he decided to move permanently to this city, where he remained till the day he died.
In the afternoon of July 3, 2023, Félix ”Pupi” Legarreta’s relatives issued a statement giving the deplorable news of the artist’s death the day before at the age of 83.
His daughter Frances Legarreta posted the following on her social networks on the already mentioned day: “I announce with great sadness the death of my father, Pupi Legarreta, on July 2, 2023, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife Frances, his son Michael, his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and his daughter Otie in Puerto Rico”.
In addition to the above, he revealed that his father expressed his desire to be cremated and not to be veiled in a memorial service. She also asked that her entire family’s privacy to be respected in view of the pain that its members were going through.