First, let me apologize to my faithful followers of the blog!! I know the blogs about Le Parisen were suddenly gone...I was doing some editing, wanted to change some things, and when I went to retrieve them, I accidentally lost them!! UGH!! I actually saw some followers having a conversation among each other...it touched me actually that you were worried about me. I am fine. Now I know the true meaning of "backing up your computer & documents"! LOL...
So we are almost 2 weeks away from the celebrating the big 25th Anniversary of Freestyle!! Wow! I can't even begin to tell you how crazy that sounds! I have had this career as a recording artist for 24 years...yes, freestyle had a head start before I broke in the business. If you are a freestyle freak, you will recall how freestyle spread like wildfire in New York, Florida, Iloinois and California! Freestyle was in everyone's walkmans (lol, remember that?), cassettes and on the radio on almost every station....it was huge! Freestyle became unanimous with New York culture! Freestyle was a celebration of the latino culture influencing American dance music - it was clean, feel good music. It was about love, falling in love, losing love, wanting love, cheating love...bottom line it was about the basic feelings of the youth in the 80s. In other words, freestyle was good, clean fun, music...you have never heard about "gangsta freestyle" LOL...
The 80's were synonymous with freestyle, cavarrici's, high hair, aqua net hairspray, and nightclubs such as Palladium, 1018, Devil's Nest, La Mirage, Marty & Lenny's, Copacabana, Exit, Paled's, Red Parrot, and Emerald City!! It was a wonderful time for all of us - we were free!! We didn't have all the drama...we were just celebrating and loving life! So at first this style of music had no name. But somehow the industry decided it needed a label. I HATE labels...labels, I find them to be limiting. Labels puts things in a box, to me, keeps things restricted. So the music industry began writing articles: "What is this new wave of music?" "The New Latin Hip-Hop...then it evolved to Latin Freestyle...now because I think music is for all people, it is simply FREESTYLE!! And the crowds that the freestyle shows drew were in drones of the thousands!!! I will NEVER forget that! I can never forget it! And so, freestyle became a frenzy, an out of control storm force that could not be stopped. Or could it???
Suddenly in the mid 90s, something happened, and everyone has a different explanation for it. In the mid 90's there was a station called HOT 103...Hot 103 had given birth to the freestyle by being the first station to play it. And before you know it, major pop stations such as Z100 wanted to have freestyle artists to perform at their functions. And what most people don't know is that in the inner circles of freestyle, it became a political war! Station vying against station, fighting over us...We had a chance to cross over and be more pop, aka, TOP 40 - the very thing all artists strive to achieve. And for a second we had a taste of it. But what you don't know is that while many of the freestyle artists saw the chance, we couldn't take the opportunity. You see, there was a threat going on behind closed doors. It was an unspoken threat: If you do the show, the parade, the concert for such and such a station, we will black ball all your music and NEVER support your music again. It may not sound scary, but it became extremely frustrating to feel that one small step could potentially ruin our career...so in a way, many freestyle artists were literally held back.
There is another theory as to why freestyle did not continue: EVERYONE was doing it - everyone wanted piece of the freestyle pie...this is not a fact, just an opinion here. But I feel that in some ways, freestyle needed to grow - it needed to expand and change and evolve in the very same way that hip hop and rap has over the years. For some reason, the demand for new freestyle was so HUGE and STRESSFUL, that many people just copied the same recipes from other songs, and before you know it...some people could not distinguish who was who. Also because everyone wanted it, so many more freestyle artists were emerging...and it seemed that everyone was signing anyone, and thus, the quality of some artists, the standards were not as high anymore. I am not trying to put anyone down - it's an observation that many of us have talked about.
I will never forget the day I was at HOT 103...and an announcement was made that they were changing dials to HOT 97. In less than a year, sometime in the early 90's, HOT 97's program director announced that HOT 97 would no longer play freestyle...they announced they would be changing their format to play a new genre of music: Hip-Hop! It was the beginning of the end for freestyle! And once New York stopped supporting freestyle, the other stations around the country followed suit. And we were faced with a harsh reality that freestyle was "over." We were told to go find jobs...I had even heard a rumor that the program director owned a restaurant at the time, and was said to have mocked us by saying, "If they need a job, they can wait tables at my place." Ouch. That hurt. I never forgot it.
I remember walking the streets of Parkchester, in the Bronx...and wondering, "What am I going to do?" We had such a tremendous success, that I think we didnt' see the end ever coming. We felt invincible...that freestyle would last forever. We were wrong...well, sort of. I can't tell you what everyone did; I can only tell you what happened to me. I was not ready for the rainy day. I did not save enough money. was so preoccupied with taking care of my family, my siblings, etc., that I kind of gave it all away. And little by little, the shows slowed down. the bills began coming. It is VERY expensive to keep this business going. Each artist is their very own business...and they have LOTS of overhead: you have to pay your manager, booking agent, road manager, dancers. You have to constantly invest an re-invest into yourself...there are costumes to buy, shoes to wear, make up, hair, nails...and you have to keep it fresh to keep up the face e of the illusion you've learned to give the public. The public loves to believe you have it all, when in essence, you are truly spending a LOT of money. In less than a year, I lost my precious condominium that Ihad purchased at the age of 18! Gone. Done. My stubbon self refused to declare bankruptcy, so I paid off every single credit card. I was stil singing, but instead of 12 shows a month, it was about 2...too little to suvive one. I became an aerobics instructor, I worked for two attorneys, and every once in a while deal with the "shame" of someone recognizing me on the street, saying, "Oh, my God! Judy Torres?? Judy Torres works here?!" Ah, yes it was a very humbling time for me...and I am happy to have been humbled! It was a valuable lesson to learn...and I'm glad God gave me that lesson very early.
And then something happened. The phone started ringing again. I was told that the people in the clubs were asking to hear me perform...huh? But the songs are so old now...it didn't matter. And in a couple of months I was working regularly perfornmng in clubs. I wasn't the only one - George Lamond TKA Coro, Cynthia, etc...we all were working consistently. And in a few more years, a new station re-emerged: WKTU, the Beat of New York. And they supported freestyle...the people's hunger to hear it agin was satisfied. I was hired there and for 12 1/2 years I hosted the KTU Freestyle Free For All. And soon after, the idea of freestyle concerts began to flourish, and we were once again thrown into a resurgence of freestyle, accompanied by new fans - the younger borthers and sisters and children of the original freestyle freaks! We've been able to say we've performed in the big arenas: Nassau Coliseum, PNC Bank Arts Center, arenas all over the country and finally the world famous Madison Square Garden....almost 25 years later!! Sold OUT!! It has been an incredible ride.
We are now less than two weeks away from the 25th Anniversary of Freestyle!! Twenty-five years!!! A quarter of a century! If someone had told me I'd still be singing No Reason to Cry ans Come Into My Arms 25 years later, I would never have believed them! But yet, here we are...and I have to tell you how grateful I am, how grateful we all are, that you have stood by us through thick and thin. And it is YOU, the PEOPLE who forced freestyle to be reincarnated!!! I will take this joy to my grave! And I will NEVER again take it for granted. I am well aware that we are all getting older - many of you have children, mortgages, and I fear the day that you wil all say, "Ay, I wish I could go to the show, but I'm too tired!" LOL...
And so, I enjoy
And when I step out onto the stage in two weeks to sing, I am going to soak up EVERY SINGLE MINUTE!! I have some special things planned...I want to show the "industry", well, we STILL GOT IT!! And FREESTYLE isn't going anywhere!! It is the voice of the people, it is a part of our culture...it is our LEGACY!!!