Joe Bataan Biography

Bataan Nitollano, 1942, New York City, New York, USA. Although he became noted in the world of Latin music, Bataan’s mother was African American and his father Filipino. Bataan started singing in informal doo-wop groups in the streets of Spanish Harlem but fell in with bad elements. At the age of 15 he was sent to a correctional facility following charges connected with car theft. While in prison he began to learn more about music and when he was released in the early 60s turned to music as a career. He had taught himself to play piano and in the mid-60s formed his own band, in which he was lead singer. Unusually, Bataan did not follow the current patterns in pop but chose instead to develop a distinctive variation on boogaloo, a style that blended orthodox Latin pop with R&B and had been labelled as Latin soul. Previous performers in this vein included Héctor Rivera and early Tito Puente. Bataan enjoyed success with records such as ‘Gypsy Woman’ for which he rewrote his original Spanish lyrics in an English variation. Among other successful records were ‘Ordinary Guy’, ‘Poor Boy’ and ‘Riot!’, while ‘Rap-O-Clap-O’, recorded with Arthur Baker in 1979 and which sold well in Europe, has been sold by some as an early example of rap. In addition to his performing career, Bataan also produced a few albums by others for Ghetto Records, while some of his own recordings were released on his own Salsoul Records.

In the mid-80s, Bataan dropped out of music to work as a counsellor among juvenile offenders. In 1995, he performed at a benefit concert held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx and shortly after that he made other appearances at New York colleges. Bataan began reissuing his early material and also released new albums showing that he had lost little of his singing ability and was still a vibrant performer of Latin soul.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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