Tony Croatto was a very gifted Italian born, but naturalized Puerto Rican singer who used his gifts to transform the cultural heritage of his beloved adopted country into a much modern and sophisticated one.
He started off as a pop singer, but as he journeyed through South and Latin America and some Hispanic countries, he fell in love with Puerto Rico and made it his home. Apart from being a talented vocalist, he was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the keyboard and guitar very well. He was also an exceptional music arranger, studio technician and producer.
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The artist popularly known as Tony Croatto was born on March 2, 1940 in Udine, Italy and was named Hermes Davide Fastino Croatto Martinis at birth. He grew up with 2 other siblings – a brother named Edelweiss and a sister named Argentina.He was not born into a wealthy family and they probably had their own issues, but they pulled through it perfectly as a family. Growing up, he had to learn to be a professional lumberjack, carpenter and for some time he worked as a farmer to help the family out. It is on record that music was very much a part of his childhood, though none of his parents or grandparents were professional musicians.
Formation of the TNT pop band
When he turned 19, he teamed up with his brother, Edelweiss (aka Tim) and sister, Argentina (aka Nelly) to form his first ever pop music band they called TNT. His mother didn’t like the idea of little Nelly singing and touring with the band at such a tender age, but he convinced her that Nelly would be well taken care of and the group began to grow and gain popularity especially in South America and Spain. Nelly was the vocal lead of the group at the time, as her powerful voice endeared them to the hearts of their fans.They moved to Spain in 1963 and were chosen to represent the nation (under controversial circumstances) at the Eurovision Song Contest 1964. They came 12th in the competition to a disappointed nation and their eagerness to make more albums or undertake tours continued to decline over the next few years and eventually they moved to Argentina In 1965. A year later, Tim left the group and went back to Italy to pursue his passion as a concert promoter. Nelly and Tony continued performing as a duo group till 1984 after moving to Puerto Rico, with Nelly getting married to a Surgeon and retiring from music.
Hacindo Punto en Otro Son band
After Nelly's departure from the band, he teamed up with 4 other Puerto Rican artists and they created a new band that was very popular in the country. The uniqueness of each of the artists – Irvin Garcia, Silverio Perez, Nano Cabera, Josy Latorre and Tony was the secret behind the success of the band.
Career as a Solo musician
Croatto was best known for his solo career which saw him put out some 30 albums and he was well known for his own unique interpretation of Puerto Rican folk lore music. He most times took original Puerto Rican folklore songs and put his own unique touch to them thereby transforming them into modern pop versions which were all well received by the public.His work and love for Puerto Rican heritage didn’t stop at folklore alone, he also took lullabies and poems written by revered poets like Georgina Lazaro, and turned them into music which was very popular with children.He also had a career as a television host and presenter on a weekly variety show called Desde mi Pueblo, alongside side presenters/anchors like Deborah Carthy Deu (former Miss Universe in 1985), Maria Falcon and Luiz Rivera. The show showcased the rich cultural diversity of Puerto Rico and lasted for about 6 years.
Relationships, Marriage and Children
Croatto’s first attempt at the marriage institution was to the very beautiful Argentine actress, Raquel Montero, and their union produced 2 children – Mara and Alejandro Croatta. After divorcing Raquel, he married an actress and singer named Gloria Esther Viera Pantojas (aka Glorivee) in 1979, and they had a son together named Hermes Croatto. After Glorivee's medical diagnosis of brain cancer and her recovery, he divorced her and married Lillian Arroyo, who was his wife till his death.
How did he die?
Croatto was a very heavy smoker throughout his lifetime and so it came as no surprise when he was diagnosed as having lung cancer in March 2005, what however shocked many was the twin diagnosis of brain cancer as well. Shortly after the twin cancer diagnosis, he decided against proceeding with orthodox or chemotherapy treatments, rather he opted to treat himself using natural therapy. He decided to write a letter to inform the public of his diagnosis, thanking the people of Puerto Rico for regarding him as a patriot and for accepting him as a son.
Unfortunately for him, his twin cancer diagnosis were much more far along than he had initially anticipated as they were at about terminal stages, so he asked to be released from the hospital to spend his final days with his family. His former band members of the Haciendo Punto band decided to stage a benefit concert for him on his sick bed and the producers of the concert decided to provide a live 2-way audio feed between him and the show, and in order to honor him, his former band mates at the concert requested for a standing ovation for him and this brought great smile to his face/lips. He shortly after slipped into unconsciousness and finally gave up the ghost on April 3, 2005. He was given a state funeral with thousands of fans and well wishers escorting his remains to his final resting place at the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cementary in Old San Juan.