presented by iQ Credit Union
If Los Lobos has learned one thing in nearly four decades together, it’s that playing by the rules is not for them. They tried it for a while, said no thanks, and they’ve been better for it ever since.
A rare example of longevity in a volatile music world that stresses style over substance, Los Lobos’ lineup has remained uninterrupted since 1984, when Steve Berlin joined original members Louie Pérez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano, each of whom had been there since the beginning in 1973.
It was during their earliest years that the particular hybrid of traditional regional Mexican folk music, rock and roll, blues, R&B, country and other genres began finding a sweet spot in the music of Los Lobos.
“In 1973, when we first formed,” says Pérez, “we were four guys from East L.A. who were friends from high school who played in local rock bands. Then once we got out of high school you still had four guys who were just hanging out together. So the natural progression of things is to just start playing music again. You’d think that we’d form a rock band but then out of nowhere somebody got this idea of ‘Let’s learn a Mexican song to play for somebody’s mom for their birthday’ or something. Mexican music was largely just wallpaper for us—it was always in the background, and we never paid much attention to it. We were modern kids who listened to rock and roll. Then when we finally dig up some old records to learn a couple of songs, that was a real revelation to us that this music is actually very complicated and challenging. So at that point we were off and running.”
One of the most momentous events in Los Lobos’ history arrived in 1987, when the band was tapped to cover “La Bamba,” the Mexican folk standard that had been transformed into a rock and roll classic in 1958 when it was recorded by the ill-fated 17-year-old Ritchie Valens. Valens, the first Chicano rock star, was catapulted to legendary status the following year when he died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. Little did anyone suspect that the remake would spring to number one on the charts. But rather than capitalize on the elevated commercial profile that “La Bamba” had given them, Los Lobos instead chose to record as a followup La Pistola y El Corazón, paying tribute to their acoustic Mexican acoustic music roots. Since then, Los Lobos has continued to deliver dependably solid and diverse recordings and a live show that never disappoints.
Los Lobos is a band that continually reboots itself and expands its scope with each passing year, while never losing sight of where they came from. Through sheer camaraderie and respect for one another’s musicality, they’ve continued to explore who Los Lobos is and what they have to offer, without succumbing to the burnout that plagues so many other bands that stick it out for any considerable length of time. Their influence is vast, yet they remain humble, centered and dedicated to their craft. Each new recording they make moves Los Lobos into another new dimension while simultaneously sounding like no one else in the world.