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Juan Formell, 71, driving force behind Cuban salsa orchestra

FILE - In this Aug. 26 2001 file phoJuan Formell leader Cuban orchestrLos Van Van performs late Sunday HavanCubduring farewell

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2001 file photo, Juan Formell, leader of the Cuban orchestra Los Van Van, performs late Sunday in Havana, Cuba during a farewell summer concert. The noted Cuban musican, who for more than four decades was the driving force behind the big band salsa orchestra Los Van Van, has died. He was 71 years old. Formell's death was announced Thursday, May 1, 2014, on Cuban state television. (AP Photo/Ernesto Mastrascusa, File)

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Updated: June 4, 2014 6:18AM



HAVANA — Cuban musician Juan Formell, who for more than four decades was the driving force behind the big band salsa orchestra Los Van Van, died Thursday. He was 71.

An anchor on Cuban state television said Mr. Formell passed “suddenly” but did not give a cause of death.

Mr. Formell received a Latin Grammy in 2013 for excellence, on top of another one in 1999 recognizing the album “Llego . . . Los Van Van.”

“My life has been entirely dedicated to music and only makes sense when people make it theirs and enjoy it,” he said upon receiving the award last year.

Born Juan Climaco Formell Cortina on Aug. 2, 1942, he was a band director, bassist, composer, singer and producer over the course of his long career.

As a young man he joined various important musical groups. In 1969, he created Los Van Van, which became Cuba’s most famous big band orchestra and whose danceable tunes attracted a wide following on the island and overseas. The lyrics of his songs told the social history of the island. AP



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