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Book Review:  "Chicano Popular Culture"

by Mark Guerrero

     "Chicano Popular Culture- Que Hable el Pueblo," explores Chicano popular culture in music, film, media, literature, and art (including graffiti art).  It also delves into the fiestas and celebrations of our nations fastest growing minority.  According to the book's description on the back cover, author Charles M. Tatum, "explains the differences and similarities between Chicano popular culture and that of other ethnic groups or of Anglo society and shows how Chicano arts reflect a people's traditions and heritage."  The part of the book that directly relates to my website is the information on Chicano music.

     Tatum begins with the Spanish and Mexican music that was transplanted to the American Southwest and follows it through to new forms of Chicano music that are popular today.  He enlightens us on Hispanic folk music of the Southwest, describing musical forms such as the cancion, decima, corrido, and others.  Tatum has sections on Selena, Chicano music on the West Coast from the 60s through the 90s, Lalo Guerrero, Ritchie Valens, Vikki Carr, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, and Santana.

     In another chapter he covers another subject near and dear to me, Chicano art, particularly the muralist art movement in East L.A. during the 60s and 70s.  I knew and still know many of the artists from that era, many of whom are still thriving as artists.  In 1981, my music was used for a documentary which aired on PBS called "The Murals of Aztlán."  Tatum also covers the performance art of a group called Asco (nausea), which was made up of Chicano artists Willie Herron, Gronk, Pattsi Valdez, and writer Harry Gamboa.  Willie Herron was also founder and leader of the 80s punk rock band, Los Illegals, who recorded an album on A&M Records.  In the chapter on Chicano cinema, the author covers the play and movie "Zoot Suit," which also has great relevance to me and my website.  My father's music (Lalo Guerrero), was a major part of the artistic and commercial success of the piece.

     I'm pleased and grateful when books are published on Chicano culture, particularly the arts, because Chicano artists generally don't get the recognition in books or the mainstream media they so richly deserve.  So I'm grateful for this book and recommend it highly.  "Chicano Popular Culture" is well researched, well written, and full of good information.  "Chicano Popular Culture" is published by the University of Arizona Press (2001).  The book's ordering number is ISBN 0-8165-1983-8.  You can contact the publisher at uapress.arizona.edu. 

For the Record

     There are some minor inaccuracies in the book that I would like to correct for the historical record.  These are academic points that do not detract from the value of the book.  Sometimes the inaccuracies or errors result from the original source being incorrect.  However, since this book is in fact a history book that is used in colleges and universities, they should be addressed.

Page 32-  The book states that my dad's mother, Doña Conchita, died when Lalo was a young man.  My dad's mother, Concepción Guerrero, passed away at the ripe old age of 86 around 1976.

Page 33-  It lists parodies written by my dad.  It says that "Tacos for Two" is a parody of "Tea for Two."  It was actually a parody of "Cocktails for Two," a different song entirely.  It also says that "There's No Tortillas" is a parody of "Yes, We Have No Bananas."  It's in fact a parody of "O Sole Mio," which evolved into "It's Now or Never."  On the same page, it calls my dad's nightclub of the 60s, Lalo's Place."  It was simply called "Lalo's."  This may have come from his sources because it's mistakenly called "Lalo's Place" in both books "Barrio Rhythms" and "Land of a Thousand Dances."  "Lalo's Place" makes it sound like a dive, which it was not.  See photo of "Lalo's" on my website, click here.

Page 37- It states that Romeo Prado played saxophone.  He was actually a trombonist and arranger for Thee Midniters.

Page 40-  Regarding the score for the play and movie "Zoot Suit," it states that much of it was composed by Lalo Guerrero and Daniel Valdez.  Not to take anything away form Daniel Valdez, who is an excellent singer/songwriter, but all the songs in the play "Zoot Suit" were written by my dad, "Los Chucos Suaves," "Vamos a Bailar," "Marijuana Boogie," and "Chicas Patas Boogie."  However, in the case of "Chicas Pata Boogie," it was my dad's lyric to the music of Louis Prima "Oh Babe."  When the movie came out, Daniel Valdez contributed a song called "Handball."  So it's not really fair to say that "much of the music for the play and movie were written by Lalo Guerrero and Daniel Valdez.  On the same page, it names the original members of Los Lobos as Conrad Lozano, David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, and Cesar Rosas.  Conrad was not an original member.  He joined a year or two later, after having been the bassist for Tierra.


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Mark Guerrero
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