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| 8/2/2011 3:00:00 PM

Joe Arroyo obituary

August 2--Colombian star of the 1980s salsa revival

Joe Arroyo, the Colombian salsa singer, who has died of multiple organ failure aged 55, used to tell the story of how he was discovered singing in a brothel at the age of eight by the local bishop and persuaded to join the church choir instead. Arroyo never said what the bishop had been doing in the brothels of Colombia's northern Caribbean coast, but he himself never looked back. By 12 he was singing with a band in a hotel, and in 1971 made his debut with what for many years was Colombia's leading salsa group, Fruko y Sus Tesos (Fruko and His Hardmen).

"El Joe", as he became known, was born in the Nariño district of the port of Cartagena, where many descendants of black slaves lived. This was where Joe learned Palenque, the African argot derived from Bantu that became one of the trademarks of his lyrics. He was said to be one of a clan of 39 children, all of them more or less related, and had to earn his keep from a very early age.

Read more here.

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