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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Berlin, Germany)
For Immediate Release                                       June 1, 2000


Hillary and I were saddened to learn of the death of the Latin jazz band leader Tito Puente. For more than 50 years, Puente was more than a musician -- he was a trailblazer. The five-time Grammy award winner's countless recordings are classics in the genre he helped define.

In 1997, I was honored to welcome Tito Puente to the White House and present him with the National Medal of the Arts. At that ceremony, I said, "Just hearing Tito Puente's name makes you want to get up and dance. With his finger on the pulse of the Latin American musical tradition and his hands on the timbales, he has probably gotten more people out of their seats and onto the dance floor than any other living artist." This is truly his legacy -- music that brings joy to young and old, to people of any background and in many nations, all around the world. We will miss Tito Puente's vibrant presence both on stage and off; but we know his spirit will endure in the music he has given us.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends.