The latest Google Doodle is a musical tribute to Tito Puente, the songwriter and timbales player responsible for songs like “Oye Cómo Va.”
Tito Puente was born in Manhattan on April 20, 1923 as Ernest Anthony Puente Jr., as the son of two Puerto Ricans. From a very young age, drums and percussion appealed to Puente, often making makeshift drums out of pots and pans. He continued to develop his musical interest, between taking piano lessons and practicing dance with his sister.
In 1942, during World War II, Tito Puente was drafted into the United States Navy. He dutifully served his country in the war for three years, and his unit was even given the Presidential Unit Citation for its service on the USS Santee.
Returning to civilian life, Tito Puente attended Juilliard School of Music in New York City, focusing on orchestrating music, conducting, and music theory. Over the course of the 1950s, just as the United States was going through a “mambo craze,” Puente expertly delivered Latin and Afro-Cuban musical styles like cha-cha and son. The most well known song by Tito Puente today is 1962’s “Oye Cómo Va,” which was famously covered by Santana in 1971.
Of course, Puente never gave up his initial love of percussion, often performing on his signature instrument, the timbales — a style of drum set that is iconic to Latin American and particularly Cuban music. Tico Puente performed on the timbales during the closing ceremony for the 1996 Summer Olympic, and that very instrument is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Tito Puente died on June 1, 2000 due to complications from a heart attack. As for why Google chose this day to honor the legendary band leader, the Tito Puente Monument was unveiled on October 11, 2021 in East Harlem, New York City.
Today’s Doodle for Tito Puente is part of Google’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, which runs from September 15 to October 15. The animated illustration — which follows the life of Tico Puente — come courtesy of New York-based Puerto Rican artist Carlos Aponte. You can even go behind the scenes of the Doodle’s creation with some incredible footage of Puente himself. Elsewhere from Google, Pixel fans were treated to a trio of new wallpapers from fellow Puerto Rican artist COVL.
More Google Doodles:
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- Anna Mani, Indian meteorologist, honored with Google Doodle
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