Music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up, all my grandparents sang and/or played guitar at family gatherings, often joined by uncles and cousins. We have so many great singers in the family and just about everyone plays some kind of musical instrument. I myself played piano & clarinet but sadly did not inherit the "awesome pipes" gene. Le sigh.
In my childhood memories, there is always music in the background. My mom's parents sang beautiful songs together, like Ojos Negros, Piel Canela, in the kitchen while preparing sandwiches. My dad's father loved to sing rancheros, mariachi music and corridos at Sunday barbecues. And my dad and his brothers loved to play music from the "Chicano Soul" era that took place in LA in the 60s.
What, you never heard of it?
Chicano Soul crossed over into the mainstream a few times with groups like Cannibal and the Headhunters (Land of 1000 Dances), The Premiers and Thee Midnighters. My dad's brother Jess had been in the Chicano Soul group, The Mixtures, and we kids grew up hearing stories about how our Uncle Chuy had rocked the house at the Rainbow Gardens Ballroom, where The Mixtures were the house band. My grandfather was especially proud that his son (bottom center of the photo below, with the sax) appeared on TV, in the music show that broadcast live in LA from the Rainbow Gardens.
As you might have noticed from the photo, one of the groundbreaking features of The Mixtures was that they were an interracial group in a disctinctly non-interracial time. And from what I've heard, they brought the pepper to every party! I love listening to these records when I'm spending time with my young family, dancing and spinning to this joyful, raucous music. Of course, the Mixtures albums I've been playing all these years (that belonged to my dear late father) are scratched and badly worn by now. So I was ecstatic to learn that the complete recordings were being reissued and released this fall!
My dad and my Uncle, though not twins, shared the same birthday-November 20th, which is this Saturday. As I write this, my brand new copy of The Mixures: Stompin' at the Rainbow is on its way to my home (I ordered the LP but it's also available as a CD). It should arrive just in time for me to celebrate and remember our family's beautiful musical legacy.
Did your family have a creative legacy? Did they paint or write poetry? I'd love to hear about it!
Wishing you love with extra cheese,
PS-If you'd like to see and hear a little of The Mixtures for yourself, check out their facebook page and this Youtube Video!
NOTE: My dear Uncle Chuy sadly lost his battle with cancer the day after Christmas 2010. There were many moving tributes to his memory, including this one. We will miss him very much.