Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero Jr., hailed as the father of Chicano
music and a voice of the Mexican-American community for more than 60 years has died at the age of 88. According to his family, Mr. Guerrero had been victim to recent health problems and had been moved from his home in Cathedral City, near Palm Springs to a convalescent home in Rancho Mirage where he died.
Born in the impoverished Barrio Viejo section of Tucson, Arizona in 1916 to a large family living and no formal musical education, Guerrero went on to write more than 700 songs, declared a national folk treasure by the Smithsonian Institute in 1980 and received in 1997 the presidential Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton.
Writing lyrics in both English and Spanish, Guerrero sampled a variety of styles from corridos to swing to cha cha and rock and roll. His credits include “Nunca Jamás” and Mexico’s unofficial national anthem “Cancion Mexicana.” Writer and director Louis Valdez incorporated several of the Pachuco songs written by Guerrero for his 1970s Broadway musical “Zoot Suit.” Guerrero is also credited with “El Corrido de Robert Kennedy and “El Corrido de Cesar Chavez,” marking his dedication to social and political figures. Guerrero also reached out to a generation of Hispanic children with 40 albums staring the Spanish-speaking cartoon characters Las Ardillitas (Little Squirrels).
Lalo Guerrero might be best remembered for his biting wit and expressing his contempt for discrimination through a series of parodies. In 1955 Guerrero hit it big with a parody of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” with his own version starring a Mexican character called Pancho Saáchez that sold a respectable
500,000 copies. Other parodies include “Elvis Pérez,” “Tacos for Two,” “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Busboys” and “No Chicanos On TV.”
Guerrero’s last recordings will appear on Ry Cooder’s CD Chavez Ravine, to be released some time this summer.
Mr. Guerrero is survived by his wife, Lidia, four children, two grandchildren and four siblings.
[Photo courtesy of Break Records.]
[Editor’s note: You can read more about Lalo Guerrero in his son’s words at Mark Guerrero’s Web site,
Author: TJ Nelson
TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.
Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.
Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.