To many, Victor Rodriguez was a Latin sensation, to others he was a doo-wop star.
Rodriguez, 70, suffered a fatal heart attack Jan. 14 in his Bronx home.
For over 50 years, he lived on the music stage, lending his soulful voice to both Latin and doo-wop genres, crossing cultural boundaries with ease. His salsa/doo-wop jobs took him to Bronx senior centers, large New Jersey venues and as far as South America.
His versatility even earned a change in his stage name – salseros called him Victor Rodriguez while his doo-wop troupe knew him as “Victor Rod.”
He made friends along the way given the flood of text messages sharing condolences, said his older brother Jose. “I’m getting texts from Hawaii and Florida.”
Rodriguez’ story starts in the 1940s, when he began cultivating his talent at age 5, singing to his mother.
A Puerto Rican native, his original stage was the stoops of Spanish Harlem, where he often sang to whoever listened.
He eventually moved to the Bronx just as he began sampling classic doo-wop tunes. He eventually joined The Delmonico’s, as a Puerto Rican man singing among Italians. He later joined the Creations.
Then came the 1970s and the start of the Golden Age of Salsa. Grammy-award winning Latin jazz star Ray Barretto heard Rodriguez sing, soon putting an idea into his head.
“He said ‘You know, you’re a good singer,’” recalled brother Jose. “‘Why don’t you go Latin?’”
He went on to sing with several Latin musicians, including Tito Puente, Chaparro and La Concenssion, recording over a half-dozen albums.
He hit it big in 1972, recording “Mi Propio Yo,” which catapulted to number one on salsa radio stations.
With a refined musical agility and degree of fame, Rodriguez moved between doo-wop and salsa until 2005, when Paul Stuart spotted his soaring voice at a New Jersey doo-wop convention.
Stuart, leader of New Jersey-based The Cameos, invited him to try out for his group and a song later, he was hired on the spot.
“Victor was a pure gentleman on stage and off stage,” said Stuart, adding the group performed over a thousand concerts throughout their eight years together.
Nearly 200 people came to Rodriguez’ funeral Jan. 19 at the Lucchese Funeral Home in Morris Park.
He was buried next to his late wife in St. Raymond’s Cemetary and is survived by three children.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383