Johnny Colón

by Mathew R. Warren

Though Colón has done some recording on his own in recent years, he has no regrets about leaving the side of the business behind. By the 1970s, Colón had discovered he was more comfortable working for his community than as a commercial artist. The scene in Crossover Dreams is from an actual rooftop performance Colón gave as a benefit for his school He never appreciated what Blade’s character said of him, especially considering the filmmakers had come to him for help getting permits to shoot in East Harlem.

But Colón would not be discouraged. By the mid-1990s, after the death of his second wife, who had helped him run the administrative side of the school. Colón was struggling to maintain funding. In 2004, unable to keep a permanent space for his school, Colón was given the opportunity to bring his brand of music education to New York City public schools. Today, as well as teaching in schools around the city, Colón has begun giving music classes to patients at drug treatment centers. He continues to perform and is hoping to raise enough money to establish a new permanent location for his school. “Teaching is a constant refueling of myself, and it keeps me grounded,” says Colón. “It’s never about me; it’s about giving as much as you can so that when it’s time to die, hopefully, you’ve given it all the way.”

Mathew R. Warren is a writer and filmmaker from New York City who is currently making a documentary on Latin music in New York from 1965-1970.


Content credits Center for Puerto Rican Studies