Lalo Guerrero, known as the father of Chicano music, died in Palm Springs, Calif. March 17. He was 88.
Guerrero was born in Tucson, Arizona, one of 24 children. He composed the classic “Cancion Mexicana,” made famous by Lucha Reyes in 1941, while still in his teens.
Guerrero was the first to bring American swing to Mexican music. The 1949 “Pachuco” swing hits, “Chicas Patas Boogie, “Vamos a Bailar,” and “Los Chucos Suaves,” became popular again in 1977 when Luis Valdez brought them to the stage in “Zoot Suit.”
In 1995, Los Lobos asked Lalo to join them on the bilingual children’s album, “Papa’s Dream,” which earned a Grammy Nomination.
He was honored with the National Medal of the Arts, declared a National Folk Treasure by the Smithsonian Institution and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
His versatility included writing and performing in a myriad of styles including boleros, rancheras, mambos, cha-cha, salsa, tejano, comic parodies and children’s recordings.
At the height of his recording years in the 1950s and 1960s, his music dominated the Latin American charts in the U.S., Mexico and South America with as many as three hits in the top ten at the same time. His enduring melodies include the bolero “Nunca Jamas” (1956) and the comic songs “Elvis Perez” (1957) and “La Minifalda de Reynalda” (1968).
Singer Linda Ronstadt said “Lalo is the first great Chicano musical artist and the historian and social conscience of that community.”
He is survived by his wife Lidia; sons Mark and Dan, a television producer; two stepchildren; three sisters; two brothers and a granddaughter.