Veteran Latin Music Exec Bill Marin Dies at 68
William “Bill” Marín, the promoter, manager and label executive who for years was associated with the most successful era of salsa in the United States, died September 15 following a car accident. Marin’s wake will be held today, September 29, at St. Therese church in Alhambra, Ca. He was 68.
A tall, dapper man who could fill a room, the Los Angeles-born Marin worked for decades in concert promotion but is most remembered for his tenures at Fania Records, and later at RMM, the indie salsa powerhouse created by Ralph Mercado. There, as VP, Marin was instrumental in growing the company to become the most important salsa label of its time, and home to popular acts like Marc Anthony and Celia Cruz.
Marin was ahead of the curve in Latin music, recognizing the importance of stylistic fusions and artists that broke language barriers. The son of Ecuadorian immigrants whoo moved to Los Angeles, he was an executive who grew up in the U.S., but clearly the understood Latin American culture, and used his experiences on both sides to inform his decisions on music and music consumers.
He attended East Los Angeles College as a math major on a basketball scholarship, and later transferred to Cal State Los Angeles. By then, he was already hooked on music, after having worked as a salesperson at Doran Records in downtown Los Angeles. And while Los Angeles wasn’t a tropical music city, that was the music the eventually drew Martin in, and he began to make a name for himself producing dances at the Hollywood Palladium, featuring the likes of Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colon, Ray Barretto and William Bobo.
Marin’s big break came in 1975, when he was hired by Fania, where he got to promote acts like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. He went on to work at CBS Records and Casablanca, where he worked with mainstream acts like Village People and Donna Summer, and eventually joined RMM as its VP/GM in the early 1990s, when salsa was dominating the Billboard charts.
Marin would leave RMM for Prestige Records in 1999, an imprint he created with John Gungie Rivera in New York. The label, with Sony distribution, was prescient, signing bilingual acts that blended urban and tropical music.
Like many projects from those days, Prestige eventually folded. But Marin remained active, returning to his independent record promotion company and representing several artists until the time of his death.
Marin is survived by his wife Maria who he recently married, his son Jay, his two brothers, Kenny and Jimmy, his two sisters, Jeanette and Elizabeth and his nephews and nieces.