When talking rhythm ‘n’ blues and Latin influences, there is no one that compares with Joe Bataan.
Born of the street, in early 1940s Spanish Harlem to an African-American mother and a Filipino father, Joe Bataan (née Bataan Nitollano) traversed those streets, absorbing its rhythms from the Puerto Rican culture living there. The gangs, especially the Dragons, absorbed him, too, including doing a stint in prison. Joe Bataan found his muse there as well, according to an interview by Canadian music critic Errol Nazareth, with Bataan crediting a music teacher and self-improvement courses taken while in jail lockdown that helped him turn his life around.
Joe Bataan’s music has been turning people around with its infectious sound since 1965 when his first band surfaced, and then in 1967, when he began to record with Fania Records, arguably, the most important Latin music label of its time.
In fielding a question from Clubbity.com regarding his musical creativity, Joe Bataan answered, “After listening to Show Musicals, Rock and RnB I got the idea to fuse Latin with English lyrics as an experiment. I listened to Joe Cuba, Hector Rivera and Pete Rodriguez and was inspired to do the same. Only difference was that my style had stories of life in the streets and much of my life was involved in my songs. This is why I became a street singer.”