Long before he would become the king of Latin Soul, Joe Bataan was born Bataan Nitollano in East Harlem and in his teenage years headed up a street gang called The Dragons, according to a 2009 interview with Blues and Soul. As a result of his days in the Dragons, he was incarcerated at Coxsachie Correctional Facility and it was there that he discovered an interest in music. Upon his release in 1965, he formed his first group, Joe Bataan and the Latin Swingers, and the group was quickly signed to Fania Records. Gypsy Woman is the title track from their first release in 1967.
While Bataan is credited with writing this version, Curtis Mayfield’s group The Impressions released a song called Gypsy Woman in 1961. The lyrics are nearly identical, though the Impressions version doesn’t have people chanting “she smokes pot!” in the background or the Latin percussion that ties this song together in my opinion. Bataan would eventually help found the label Salsoul, for which he would record a few albums including this early hip hop song Rap-o Clap-o from 1979. Incidentally if you listen to Rap-o Clap-o and don’t enjoy it then kindly close this browser window and never return to this blog again, as it is not for you and very little in this world is.