Humberto Nieves is his given name, though friends and fans alike always call him Tito. And even-though he was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, he lived since his first year of life in New York. Afar from his motherland, but submerged in the great Latin community of New York, Tito quickly started to nourish on tropical, blues and pop music. “In 1975 I decided that music was my calling,” explains Tito. “At that point I was full of dreams, and would look at a Fania (All Stars) photo with all those big artists and all I could think is what could I do to get to them, to be near Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Celia”, as he remembers his first moments in music.
A story to tell
At age 15, Tito Nieves already knew that all roads would lead him to the stage. And with such he knocks at the Orquesta Cimarrón’s door and quickly became their lead singer for the following two years.
At the end of the 70’s he joins the great Hector Lavoe Orchestra. “Hector taught me the steps in music, he took me by the hand, giving me his support” says Tito.
“My first experience in a recording studio comes immediately after this” Nieves recalls. “It was in 1979 when I was the lead singer in Tairbori.” In the early 80’s he joins Conjunto Clásico. “During this time I grew musically, and as I shared the stage with Celia Cruz and Tito Puente, it felt like all my dreams have been fulfilled.”
“I feel I was born at the right time,” affirms Tito. “I had a chance to live in decades where I could participate in all the changes that happened in tropical music and that I could share them alongside all the true protagonists.”
In 1988 he records his first solo album entitled, Classic, which included the hit song “Sonámbulo”, earning a Gold record on the way. The following year he released Yo quiero cantar which featured the song “I’ll always love you” adding 2 more Gold records to his collection.
His greatest success was to brake over the language barriers by bringing the tropical sound to his new fans, in what the media dubbed the New York Sound.
In his vast list of smash hits there are songs like “Can You Stop The Rain”, “You Bring Me Joy”, “De mí enamórate”, among others. But there was one song that surpassed all expectations by becoming the anthem of the 90’s; it was “I Like It Like That.”
With Tito, the new version of the 60’s songs sounded fresher and had vibrant Latin overtones. It also became the theme song for the movie I like it Like That, as well as for the conglomerates Folgers Coffee and Burger King, as used on TV programs, sports events and much more, making Tito Nieves an international sensation. “One of the most precious gifts that this song gave me was the fact that I could share it with one of my musical colleagues, Stevie Wonder” recalls Tito. “In my career I had the pleasure of working with artists that I admire and respect, such as José José o Marlon Brando.”
The Pavarotti of Salsa
Among his awards he has had three Ace Award as a singer in 1994, for his video “No Me Vuelvo A Enamorar” in 1996 and “Best Artist in New York” in 1997. He was also nominated for a Billboard award in 1998 with his Clase Aparte album, received a 1999 Globo Award as Best Tropical Singer, a Premio Lo Nuestro Award for the song “Así Mismo Fue” in 2000 and “Best Salsa Album” Grammy® Award nomination in 2002.
“But the best recognition comes from the public”, declares Tito, who is also known as the Pavarotti of salsa. “That was Johnny Pacheco’s idea, it was during the Fania days when I had to do the backup vocals and while recording had to sing afar from the mic” and by doing so Johnny would proclaim “you are all a Pavarotti’.
Times of Change
In 2000, Tito Nieves was amongst Billboard Magazine’s Top 10 with his song “Un Amor Así” followed by “Como Llegó Tu Amor”, a duet with the legendary Rubén Blades.
“I think that on my way through this genre I have given my share of good taste and class”, Tito explains. “I have not being a great songwriter, but as a singer I have given my best,” he concludes.
Nowadays, Tito Nieves is once again at the center of attention with his latest production entitled Fabricando Fantasías, to be release on SGZ Entertainment, his new record label home. “I feel that this new album is one of the most important in my career because it comes at a very crucial time for me” says an emotional Nieves, referring to the track “Fabricando Fantasías”, a song written by Jorge Luis Piloto and Raúl del Sol that allowed him to heal from the pain he suffered after his son passed away.
“On this song I talk about the feelings I had as I lost my son and it is in his memory that I recorded it” he explains and continues “But I also have a 7-year old son who expect the best of me and I must go forth for his sake.”
I have everything
“Life and this career have given me everything; the love, financial security and success” he tells. “And I hope good health will allow me to continue with my work, grow and change with the generations to come” concludes Tito.
There is a song that Tito never recorded but relates to “I always felt “El Cantante” is a song that I can identify with, because it talks about my life, what an artist goes through when the lights are off, when we are fragile but need to be happy” explains the singer. “Those are moments that I ask God to be with me more than any other time.”
Tito Nieves is sure that he is going through the right path. “I was born at the right time, related with the right people, I can’t be anything but happy, sharing this emotion in each song.” And Tito knows that the best always is yet to come.