Bringing It Back, Keeping It Alive

Oldies music helps good times happen

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: September 3, 2003

Bringing It Back, Keeping It Alive

Ahhh, the tunes of the good old days. More than five generations of existing during my lifetime, I can say that. The "tunes" may be of different genres, but they mean something to somebody, someplace, for some reason.

As for myself, my favorite musical genre, Oldies but Goodies, reflects my journey through life and Aztlan, with my persona being the sum total of my life's experiences. Some good, some bad, some inspiring, some heartbreaking, all didactic and worthy of memory. I know I am not alone in this frame of thinking, and I've been priviliged to experience the institutions of good family, good friends and good times despite personal crisis & hard times because of it.

In the 'hood, we call that "having heart".

That's what life's all about for a survivor, and being a survivor is what makes life so enjoyable and worthy of sharing with others in some form or another, if for no other reason but to stay connected to other survivors. My chosen form has been Oldies but Goodies Music. Two good examples:

Earlier this year, I was asked by a dear friend to DJ at her wedding reception. This might not sound like so big a deal, except that my friend's and her new husband's family are African American from South Central L.A., and the rural southern states of Arkansas, Georgia and Missisippi. I'm a Chicano Oldies but Goodies DJ from the East San Gabriel Valley, so this was quite an assignment, if not a challenge. I felt honored at being asked, and my friend and her new husband remain dear friends of mine.

From the start, I could feel the looks of curiosity, disdain and resentment from the all Black attendees as they wondered what this middle-aged, goateed, ponytailed Chicano was doing at a sacred, Black-only occasion.

"Why?" was one of the first questions circulating as I set up.

Many older attendees seemed outright bothered, and the young of course smacked their lips and made snide remarks about "no Rap or Hip Hop" and "Where's a good club?"

Within 15 minutes of starting, I could see heads and shoulders start to bob, eyebrows rise, feet started tapping and smiles started breaking out. After a few well received requests, I had the dance floor full for the rest of the night. I became more and more welcomed as the night progressed, and as my music spans the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's, dance partners of varied ages became visible as Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, Daughters, Grandkids, Nephews, Nieces, Sons and friends of the Bride and Groom all broke out and "showed their stuff".

This became a true family festival of love, with music being the bond that connected the generations. One older gentleman who started the evening off glaring at me from a distance, came up to me with a large plate of food and a couple of beers, apologizing for wrongly expecting "Salsa & Mariachi shit" and thanking me for playing music that he could dance to with family he hadn't seen in over 20 years or that he had never met.

Many out-of-state attendees told me the same thing: "We didn't know Latinos had so much soul!"

At the end, I had trouble leaving due to the many hugs, handshakes and sharing of memories that always come after a good time with family and friends. I made many friends amd listeners that day, and enjoyed the Black version of Familia and the 'Hood. No hassles, no problems, and puro acceptance.

I played for two extra hours.

Another time, I was asked by a friend to DJ a private party for his older Tio and Tia's 40th anniversary reception. This was significant in that his family had experienced a number of personal crisis and deaths in the previous three years, they were drifting slowly apart, and hadn't had a family gathering in years. I gladly took the job as I remember their familia being tight and good people when I was young.

The familia took all the steps to insure this was to be an old time/good time experience, complete with live mariachis, tons of food and drink, invited family members, friends, and neighbors (and all their kids!) in attendance, and me to bring it back and keep it alive through music.

The dancing started soon after I did, and I was able to honor most requests, including Salsa and Rancheras. People were having a ball dancing to a variety of music, but the Oldies brought out the love, romance, memories and tears, which prompted my hosts to request an additional hour. Many family members thanked me over and over for bringing smiles back to their family, especially the older members.

My friend's cousin tearfully told me she hadn't seen her parents dance, smile and look so alive & happy in years. Once again, I was deluged with hugs, handshakes and repeated offers of food & drink. Once again, I made some new friends and new listeners, (and of course took home a couple plates of good comida!). Familia & the 'hood....Brown flavor!

It's experiences like these that reinforce my love of Oldies music, and my desire to share it in an atmosphere of good times, hope, and love for people in a world too self-absorbed and fast paced for its own good.

Music is the fountain of youth that transcends generations and color. I once again invite all Mi Gente to take a deep drink......it's ALL good!

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano style, lowriding Oldies but Goodies on the World Wide Web every Thursday at 6:oo pm, (L.A. Time), only on www.KCLAFM.com. Website: http://www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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