Sal Salomon is a man who has been to prison; spent a year in a homeless shelter; had 3 brothers, his father and mother die in a 7 month period; but can still find "vibrations of happiness" — especially when he sings.
Sal is a child of 1970s Hell's Kitchen. He was brought up in an era where the Westies still had a significant hold on the area, and as he puts it: "you got to know the Irish mob pretty well and I wound up getting in trouble at an early age." The big trouble came when he was 19.
"My friend stole the car and I got in it and he told me 'Hey, I don't know what to do. I stole this car and there's a baby in the back'. I looked in the back seat and there was the baby," Sal recalls. "At that very moment, the police pulled up right behind us."
This was a turning point for Sal: "It worked out 'cause I got my GED in prison. I felt good. I came home. I got my college degree. I never got in trouble again. And that was way back in 1990. You never know what could have happened if I had stayed out of prison."
Then Sal worked on Wall Street. He ended up at Meyers Pollock Robbins, until the company was shut down for fraud (he was one of the workers, not one of the 44 senior staff indicted back in 2000).
"I was a big fan of Mickey. So I give him the song 'Blowin' Up' for his movie, The Wrestler. The soundtrack got nominated for an Oscar in 2009.
Next stop, the music industry. Sal's friends had always encouraged his singing and writing, and he landed a job with Bad Boy Entertainment. He ended up at P. Diddy's at Daddy's House studio on W44th Street, and became an in-house hook writer for the Bad Boy artists.
"I ended up writing tracks for Akon and Joell Ortiz, I started to get known," then Sal got an opportunity to work with Mickey Rourke. "I was a big fan of Mickey. So I give him the song 'Blowin' Up' for his movie, The Wrestler. The soundtrack got nominated for an Oscar in 2009.
"And then right then when everything was good, my brother died. Then a month later, my other brother died. Then a month later, my other brother died. Then a month later, my father died. Then two months later, my mother died and then six months later, my manager and best friend who was doing the music with me died."
Sal fell into a deep depression. He describes it as a "shock depression". He blew through his savings and "was spending money to make myself feel good until I ran out of money."
"So I had nowhere to go and I went to a homeless shelter,"says Sal. That was May last year. The conditions were awful. Sal knew he had to get out.
"Somebody said 'why don't you sing in the streets? And at least you can make some money to survive and eat food'," he went to see a friend who worked as a manager at Sam Ash music store."He could see the situation I was in and he said, 'I'm going to buy you the machine for you to sing'."
The vibration of happiness brings more of the same. It's the law of attraction.
He started singing in Central Park and learning more classic songs from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bobby Darin as he went along. Each night he would deposit the the bank the cash he earned, and then head back to the shelter before curfew.
After a year, Sal is out of the homeless shelter: "I'm getting bookings now. I guess I should have been doing the Frank Sinatra a long time ago. I wish I would have known. I just had to look for what really makes me happy. And the happiness is when I'm singing Frank or Dean Martin or Bobby. The people smile and they dance and they nod their heads and I'm singing [he burst into song] 'somewhere beyond the sea, somewhere waiting for me'. It's that happy vibe, that's what I thrive off now. The vibration of happiness brings more of the same. It's the law of attraction."
You can see and listen to Sal at Bar9 on 9th Avenue between W53rd/54th St on Tuesday and Sunday evenings. Follow him on Instagram, and hear samples of his music at @salsalamonmusic. You can also support Sal by giving at venmo salsalomon & cashapp $salsalomon
BEING HOMELESS. We asked Sal about his experiences of being homeless, living in the shelters and his views on what's happening in Hell's Kitchen. The second part of this story will be published on Wednesday. To be updated, please sign up for our newsletter