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Latin music has lost one of its greats.  Not an artist per se, but still a performer and as impactful as anyone performing on stage could be.  Known as “El Rey de la Radio” DJ Polito Vega passed away at 84 years old.

Vega was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and as a young boy, he was fascinated by music and dreamed of one day becoming a singer. In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, he said “I came to New York as a skinny little kid with a wisp of a mustache, hoping to make it as a singer…Things didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but I really don’t have any grounds for complaint, do I?”

Although singing was not in the cards. Music certainly was! Vega started his illustrious career as an announcer at the tender age of 17 at a local Puerto Rican station. Later upon that move to New York City he took a job at WKDM in Spanish Harlem, where he worked until 1967 before joining WADO-AM, the first 24-hour Spanish-language radio station in the United States. It was during his tenure at WADO-AM that Polito gained a reputation as a pioneering figure in Spanish-language radio broadcasting. 

His passionate commentary and unique blend of Latin American music resonated with millions of Latinos living in New York City. Particularly those from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia and other parts of Latin America. But he also helped to break out artists that would not ordinarily get airplay.  An instrumental part in helping artists on the Fania label become known to local listeners. Helping to establish Fania as the Latino Motown.

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In addition to playing salsa, reggaeton and merengue on his show. All genres that had previously been underrepresented on mainstream radio. Vega also interviewed prominent Latino celebrities such as Ruben Blades, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan. He has been credited for launching their careers by giving them early exposure to Hispanic audiences throughout the United States.

Vega was an influential figure in New York City’s Spanish radio scene for over 50 years, with more than two decades spent as a host on La Mega. His popular weekend shows, “Salsa Con Polito” on Saturdays and “Clásicos Sundays,” were a staple for many who sought uplifting vibes and exceptional music.

But more than just being an influential DJ, Vega has also made significant contributions to his community outside of the studio. Over the years he raised money for various charitable causes through radiothons and events sponsored by La Mega 97.9 FM.

Upon his passing the family of Polito Vega released a special message to his fans:

“For those of you that loved him, we ask that instead of suffering his loss, that you celebrate his legacy. Polito continues to live in the music that he loved and shared, as well as the impact he left in the Latin community. Polito lived happiness, smiles and love. We would like for all his fans to live life to the fullest, as he did.”

Despite his passing, once can be certain his influence will continue on for generations to come.

El Rey de la Radio. Que Dios te bendiga.

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