REMEMBERING JIMMY SABATER

sabater.jpg
Sad news: Jimmy Sabater, the “velvet sound” of Latin soul, just passed away. To me, Sabater is one of the most undersung of the boogaloo giants, the literal voice to many of the style’s great hits. I had a chance to interview him a couple of years back for the liner notes to the Joe Cuba Sextet’s We Must Be Doing Something Right and am grateful to have had that opportunity.

Sabater and Cuba were, for the most part, inseparable from one another. It’s impossible to consider the accomplishments of one without crediting the other (ironically though, an issue of “credit” is what ultimately soured their friendship and partnership).

When the Sextet broke out in the mid-1960s, Sabater’s voice was practically the platonic ideal for English-language vocalists in the boogaloo era and Sabater was a key bridge figure. You can hear, in his tones, the influence from doo-wop and Sinatra-style crooners but Sabater began to insert more of an R&B feel into it, helping pave the way for someone like Ralfi Pagan. Here’s the original version of what would become Sabater’s signature hit:

Joe Cuba Sextette: To Be With You
From Steppin’ Out (Seeco, 1963)

Sabater’s biggest hit was undoubtedly “Bang Bang,” a song that many associate with the birth of boogaloo; it wasn’t “the first” but it was likely the first major hit, helping spread the boogaloo gospel. Unlike “To Be With You,” which was written by Willie Torres, “Bang Bang” was Sabater’s own concoction, influenced by the Black and Latino dancers who’d come to the Sextet’s shows. Cuba would later claim to be a co-writer, thus dipping into half the publishing revenue, a move that would ultimately help destroy him and Sabater’s relationship. That unfortunate dynamic aside thought, “Bang Bang” remains one of the great Latin songs of all time:

Joe Cuba Sexet: Bang Bang
From Bang! Bang! Push! Push! Push! (Tico, 1966)

Sabater also penned this sleeper hit from the next Sextet album, My Man Speedy:

Joe Cuba Sextet: Gimme Some Love
From My Man Speedy (Tico, 1968)

By 1969, Jimmy Sabater left the Sextet and as his new LP title simply stated, he was now Solo. That album yielded what is probably my favorite song by him: “Times Are Changin” (written by boogaloo’s other great, undersung talent, Louis Ramirez).

Jimmy Sabater: Times Are Changin
From Solo (Tico, 1969)

1970’s El Hijo De Teresa/Teresa’s Son found him moving further into funk and salsa, including this multi-genre scorcher:

Jimmy Sabaer: Yroco
From El Hijo De Teresa/Teresa’s Son (Tico, 1970)

Sabater even held it down in the disco era, when he re-released “To Be With You” with an updated feel (courtesy producer Bobby Marin).

Jimmy Sabater: To Be With You (disco version)
From To Be With You (Salsa, 1976)

Even by 1980, at a time when many of his contemporaries from the 1960s were out the game, Sabater was still recording, this time with Fania for the LP Gusto, which yielded this very cool Heatwave cover:

Jimmy Sabater: Mind Blowing Decision
From Gusto (Fania, 1980)

Thanks for the memories, Jimmy.

Comments

comment(s)

12 comments to REMEMBERING JIMMY SABATER

  • Julio Del Valle

    Jimmy,You will be greatly missed. As a Neuyorican nacido en Ponce creado en Nueva york as you, I Grew up where I had completly forgotten to speak spanish,You among others brought me back to my roots, for that I will be forever grateful,Thank you

  • Anonymous

    As a fellow musician, I strongly regret the fact that Jimmy should have been given the recognition he deserved,it is sad our music and our artist are not played on the air as in the past, ‘NO’ T.V. Exposure what so ever. I live in Florida and as a fact our P,R. artist are able to work here.. why you ask because the cubans, such is as the Estefan’s Gloria and hubby control who gets to do what here in Florida…At the calle Ocho festival artist from P.R. are excluded…if for any reason some of you’s out there disagree guess what I dont’ care…A SALSERO FROM THE OLD SCHOOL OF THE BRONX, AND LET ME REMIND YOU ‘EN LA ESCUELA DE RUMBERO YO SOY MAESTO ..PEACE

  • milton

    dignity is due, overdue when someone of this magnitude, who has contributed to a hell of a culture,. in latin music ….to history…for him to be practically invisible…in his honor…for his contributions…he should have been on all news channels worldwide because he was loved in russia, china, south america…and the world around….latin america…soooo many have come out of these countries…how dare the media ignore such a contributor to salsa and soul in announcing the passing of one of our educators,and musician…What a humble Human Being….Jimmy Sabater rest in peace…Milton and Neftali Ayala from EL BARRIO.

  • Shelli

    I was on vacation when I heard the very sad news. Rest in peace Jimmy, and keep singing wherever this next journey takes you.

  • Domingo.Torres"mingo"

    Jimmy i need to say, being in the Bronx from 1956-1975 i lived an experiance that can never be duplicated,schooled @ MORRIS HIGH music was a big part of my life i visited 410 1/2 club,el hippo campo,the ice palace you are a part of me “MI PANA”

  • Debbie Garay

    Not only was he an amazing singer, song writer, he was an amazing Father, though he was not my biological father, he made a major in pact in my life, he taught me kindness, because he was kind, he taught me to give, because he gave to everyone, he brought laughter not only to me but to everyone who had the honor of meeting my Padrino, my Father, he brought sunshine to my life, he depended on me as much as i depended on him, Pop and I had UNCONDITIONAL love for one another. I honestly don’t know how I go through each day without hearing his voice tell me I Love You Ma, I miss him terribly:(
    For those of you who are out there and really could appreciate his talent as I did and many others, he left behind an amazing legacy! If you can read this Pop, I hope u will be at the front gate when it’s my turn because I want To Be With You! I Love You Pop!

  • This note is really missing information. What about son boricua? Your favorite song of jimmy is not good at all man. WTF!

  • To their each their own 🙂

  • Miriam Acosta- Sabater

    A great Cousin that I never got to meet in person but dance to his music. If you love the music, you love the men RIP

  • TERRY SABATER-LEITZSEY

    HELLO TO MY SISTER DEBBIE SABATER-GARAY, I READ YOUR COMMENT SISSY, AS ALWAYS YOUR THE BEST, POPS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I, A NOTE TO POP, REST IN PEACE SIR, I LOVE AND MISS YOU, YOUR FIRST BORN TERRY,,,

  • TERRY SABATER-LEITZSEY

    DEBBIEEEE DID YOU EVEN REALIZE THE TIME YOUR SENT YOUR MESSAGE TO POP MO ? 7:48 CHECK IT OUT…OMG TO BE WITH YOOOOOU !!!

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