Lalo Guerrero review

:. Director: Dan Guerrero & Nandy Dos Santos
:. Genre: Documentary
:. Running Time: 1:20
:. Year: 2006
:. Country: USA


A loving tribute to the grandfather of Chicano music, the made for TV documentary Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano honors the man whose career spanned over 7 decades.

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival can not be accused of not honoring its elders. The screening of Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano was packed with people who loved the singer who wrote such songs as "Los Chucos Suaves", "Las Ardillitas", "Marijuana Boogie", "Nunca Jamás" and "Cancion Mexicana". Guerrero died in March of 2005 in Palm Springs, CA.

The documentary chronicles Guerrero's life, from his early days in Arizona to settling in Los Angeles in the 1940's and includes footage from the fifties to a tribute to him at the Ford Amphitheatre in 2003. Guerrero wrote over 700 songs and in several genres, including boogie, salsa, parodies, children's songs, boleros, swing and songs about social justice and the work of Cesar Chavez for the migrant workers of California. Several people are interviewed, including Lalo himself (always ready to tell a joke) as well as Ry Cooder, Dolores Huerta, Edward James Olmos and Linda Ronstadt. The documentary succeeds in telling so much in so little time that you get the idea that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that more will be forthcoming in terms of his influence on Chicano music.

I had the good fortune of seeing Lalo Guerrero perform twice, at a tribute to him the Ford Amphitheatre and again at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in 2004. His sense of humor and talent for crafting everything from paradies like "There's No Tortillas" to the heartbreaking "Barrio Viejo" meant that listening to him live was seeing the world from his perspective, from the comic to the tragic to the mundane. Before he passed away in March of 2005, he recorded three tracks on Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine, including a version of "Barrio Viejo" that sends shivers up the spine.

Linda Ronstadt has said that Lalo Guerrero was "the first great Chicano musical artist, historian and social conscience of our community". In 1980 the Smithsonian Institution named him a National Folk Treasure. Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano is a valentine for those who loved him and an excellent introduction for those new to his music.

  Anji Milanovic

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