Father of salsa music Johnny Pacheco dies age 85

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Johnny Pacheco (2R), pictured in 2014 with fellow salsa musicians Roberto Roena (L), Bobby Valentín (2L) and Ismael Miranda (R), was considered one of the fathers of salsa music

Johnny Pacheco, the Dominican-born musician considered one of the fathers of salsa, died Monday at the age of 85 in New Jersey, his family said.

A musician, composer and producer, Pacheco founded the Fania Records label, as well as the historic Fania All Stars band, which included salsa icons Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon.

"With great pain in my soul and an emptiness in my heart I inform you that maestro Johnny Pacheco passed away this afternoon with great peace," his wife, Cuqui Pacheco, said in a statement published on the musician's official Facebook page.

"A thousand thanks for all your prayers and all the love you always gave him."

Pacheco had been urgently hospitalized a few days ago for pneumonia.

Born Juan Azarias Pacheco in Santiago de los Caballeros, in the northern Dominican Republic, on March 25, 1935, he emigrated to New York as a child with his family.

There, he studied at the Juilliard arts school and began his musical career in the 1950s. He rose to fame with his band Pacheco y Su Charanga.

He founded Fania Records in 1964 with attorney Gerald Masucci.

He recorded or composed more than 100 songs during his career, including "El Faisan" and "Quitate tu."

"DEP (Rest In Peace) my dear friend and teacher," Colon tweeted after Pacheco's death was announced, calling his former bandmate "unique."

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