Yomo Toro, a cultural icon for 50 years, was one of Latin music's most beloved musicians. Victor Guillermo Toro was born on July 26, 1933 in the Guarnica province of Puerto Rico in Ensenada, where a statue of him now stands in the town square.
He began learning cuatro with his father and during his teens performed with many popular and folkloric groups. He moved to New York in 1956, and throughout the '60s played with such groups as Ramito and Los Panchos.
From the late '60s through the mid-'70s he hosted a TV show on Channel 41. In 1970, he joined Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe in recording the classic Asalto Navideño, a groundbreaking album that combined New York salsa with traditional Puerto Rican Christmas music and became one of the best-selling salsa albums of all time.
He was a member of the famed Fania All-Stars, which included such artists as Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Johnny Pacheco, Bobby Valentin, Roberto Roena, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, Cheo Feliciano, and Ismael Miranda, and toured with the band throughout the world.
He appeared on more than 150 albums, including over 20 solo albums for Fania, Island, Rounder and Green Linnet Records. He has recorded with such stars as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, David Byrne, and Marc Anthony, made several cross-cultural albums, and worked on the soundtracks of Woody Allen's Bananas and Crossover Dreams.
In recent years he performed with Larry Harlow and the Latin Legends Band and appeared in the off-Broadway show Sofrito! In addition to performing, he was an accomplished songwriter, particularly of romantic ballads.
In 2012, several press releases came out in June, confirming that Yomo Toro was severely ill, suffering from kidney failure due to many years of high blood pressure.
Yomo Toro died on Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm after more than a month in a New York hospital due to kidney failure.
Photo by Verna Gillis/Soundscape