At the age of 17, Lavoe decided to quit music school in Ponce and set his sights on a singing career in New York City. By 1966, he found himself fronting Willie Colón's orquestra. Lavoe and Colón formed a partnership that would go on to span 14 albums, nearly all of which are gems in the world of Latin music. In 1973, Colón left Lavoe in charge of his orquestra, pushing Lavoe into his solo career. Without Colón, Lavoe's solo efforts only reconfirmed his singing ability and his inevitable rise to stardom. The pressures of being a huge salsa star were apparently too great for Lavoe. He had a difficult time handling his success and suffered a number of personal setbacks along the way. But Lavoe's fans never forgot about him and he always came back singing. In 1987, his final album, Strikes Back, was nominated for a Grammy.
With all the excess, fame, fortune, and tragedy from such humble beginnings, Lavoe's life has gone on to symbolize the salsa era of the '70s. With Colón, Lavoe helped shape the salsa sound of the '70s. As a solo artist, he defined the salsa sound of the '70s. And as one of the lead singers of the Fania All-Stars, Lavoe was the star among stars, "El Cantante de los Cantantes." ~ Roberto Ledesma, Rovi