Puerto Rican salsa legends Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz celebrated Saturday their 50th year of making music together by recalling their greatest hits and giving thanks they're still alive after their bouts with drugs and alcohol.
Ray, a virtuoso pianist who studied music in New York, and Cruz, who grew up tending goats in the western Puerto Rican district of Hormigueros, told Efe in an interview of their satisfaction at making so many thousands of people happy who have danced to their music.
Richard Maldonado Morales, the real name of Richie Ray, called it "a privilege" to complete half a century of an artistic career with Cruz, a kid he met 55 years ago at school.
Both began composing tunes inspired by Puerto Rican singer Ramito and influenced by such Latin American song styles as the guaguanco, the cha cha cha, the boogaloo and the mambo, and even by classical music at times.
Discs like "Jala Jala y Boogaloo" in 1967 and "Los Durisimos" (The Toughies) were big hits of Ray and Cruz's first period, but fame began taking its toll in the form of addictions and scandals.
Ray said their problems kept getting worse until they felt in 1974 that they would be better off following the path of Christianity.
The duo, known as "Los Durisimos," put their music on hold for a period that lasted 20 years, during which time they devoted themselves heart and soul to religious life.
The first church they founded was in Miami, followed by another in Ireland and a third in Mexico City.
Ray is set to open church No. 73 in Florida.
Following their concert on Saturday at the Jose M. Agrelot Coliseum in Puerto Rico, Ray and Cruz will continue their tour celebrating their 50 years making music together with shows in Colombia and the United States. EFE