Juan Carlos Formell, Buoyant Heir of Cuban Musical Legacy, Dies at 59

Logo The New York TimesThe New York Times
2023-05-31 00:10:50  • 5 mins

The son of Juan Formell, a giant of Cuban music, he found his own voice as a singer-songwriter. He died during a performance in New York.

Juan Carlos Formell, an acclaimed singer-songwriter who settled in New York after defecting from Cuba and eventually took over as bassist for his famous father, Juan Formell, in Los Van Van, one of the most influential bands of post-Revolutionary Cuba, died on Saturday during a performance in New York City. He was 59.

His death, from a heart attack he suffered onstage at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx, was confirmed by his romantic and musical partner, Danae Blanco. Mr. Formell, she said, had hypertension and arteriosclerosis.

Since fleeing Cuba for New York City in 1993, Mr. Formell had charted his own musical course, releasing five solo albums and earning a Grammy nomination in 2000 for best traditional tropical Latin performance for his debut album, Songs from a Little Blue House.

When his father died in 2014, Mr. Formell agreed to carry on his legacy as the bassist for Los Van Van, the Afro-Cuban dance band co-founded by his father. The bands current lineup also includes his brother Samuel on drums and his sister Vanessa Formell Medina on vocals.

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