With President Obama and Cuba in the news this week, we’re taking a look back at a previous time period when the two countries attempted to normalize relations, and the United States allowed Billy Joel, Stephen Stills, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Weather Report, the CBS Jazz All-Stars and other artists to travel to Cuba to perform at the three-day Havana Jam festival in March 1979. The event was sponsored by Bruce Lundvall, president of Columbia Records, Jerry Masucci, president of Fania Records, and the Cuban Ministry of Culture.
The artists performed at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana, with Billy giving a knockout performance at the finale on March 4, 1979. Unfortunately Billy’s set at Havana Jam was not recorded or videotaped, so these photos from the Sony Music vault are the only record of his historical performance.
Billy Joel performs at Havana Jam at the Karl Marx Theatre on March 4, 1979. Photo credit: Don Hunstein
Billy Joel performs at Havana Jam. Photo credit: Benno Friedman
Two boys stand near the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana in March 1979. Photo credit: Don Hunstein
The Karl Marx Theatre at night in Havana. Photo credit: Don Hunstein
Aerial view of Havana in March 1979. Photo credit: Don Hunstein
Billy Joel chomps on a Cuban cigar while in Havana. Photo credit: Benno Friedman