Mongo Santamaria, a Cuban-born conga player and percussionist who became one of the biggest figures in Latin jazz, died on Saturday at a Miami hospital, where he had been put on life support after suffering from a stroke last week. He was 85 years old.
Santamaria was born in Havana, Cuba. He moved to New York in 1950 and became involved with the mambo craze that had swept the city, playing with such leaders as Tito Puente, Perez Prado, and Cal Tjader. During his forty-year career, Santamaria released dozens of albums exploring Latin jazz, pop, soul, mambo, and R&B. He won the 1977 Grammy for Best Latin Recording for his album Dawn. He is survived by his six children, two sisters, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Services were held this morning in Kendall, Florida.
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