What comes to mind when the term “rock star” is uttered? Some skinny British guy wearing tight leather pants and a ruffled blouse? Despite the fact that African-Americans are largely responsible for the creation of rock & roll, it is largely thought of as white people music. Obviously, this is all kinds of false, which is why we’re here to set the record straight. Latinos have been rocking since back in the days of pompadours and blue suede shoes. Rock music has morphed into a variety of styles over the years. This is especially true in Latin America, where rock made sweet sweet love to each country’s local music and produced a hybrid style. Below is a list of five Latino musicians who rocked the Casbah pretty hard.
You better believe we’re kicking things off with the Latino Elvis. Ritchie Valens, born Ricardo Valenzuela, was a musical giant at the tender age of 17. In his short career, he produced several number one hits including “La Bamba,” ”Oh, Donna,” and “Let’s Go.” Unfortunately, as is the case with a majority of musical greats, Valens died tragically in the same plane crash that killed The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly. The date of the accident– February 3, 1959– is often called “The Day the Music Died.” In an age when Latinos rarely appeared on stage with white performers, Ritchie was selling out concert halls. His music influence is vast. So vast, in fact, that it travelled across the Atlantic Ocean and found itself inside of Led Zeppelin’s “Boogie With Stu.” In 1987, Ritchie Valens was immortalized on film by Lou Diamond Phillips in 1987. Riiiiitttcccccchhhiiiiieeeee!
Considered one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Carlos is a living legend. He came up in the 60s with songs like “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.” Carlos was one of the first artists to mix Latin rhythms with rock riffs. He was also one of the headliners at Woodstock, along with his good friend and fellow guitar god Jimi Hendrix. Carlos still sells out stadiums all over the world. Carlos is especially important to this author, as his father once told him he was conceived to Santana’s Abraxas Album. Ew. Below is “Samba Pa’ Ti,” a track that British author Nick Hornby thinks exudes sex:
The man who launched a thousand bong hits, Jerry was the lead guitarist and one of the main vocalists for the Grateful Dead. Jerry became an icon of the 1960s psychedelic San Francisco scene when he and the Dead became the house band for Ken Kesey’s acid tests. He toured with the band every year until his death in 1995. To say that the Grateful Dead have a cult following is like saying that the average Deadhead chick needs to shave her pits: an understatement. If anyone on this list is literally worshipped by millions, it’s Jerry. They even named an ice cream after the guy.
Effing Slayer, man! If you grew up as an angry teenager, chances are Slayer provided the soundtrack to your life. Tom has been leading the kings of thrash since 1981. As our mom can tell you, his shredding vocals have been making parents insane for years. Tom was one of the first Latino metal gods has inspired thousands of bands across the U.S. and Latin America. If you see a kid in Mexico in all black leather playing loud for the lord Satan, you can thank Tom for that.
Speaking of angry, disaffected youth, let’s talk about Zack De La Rocha. Zack was the lead singer for pissed-off band Rage Against The Machine. His songs were mostly about revolution, oppression, injustice, and sticking it to the man. Zack and guitarist Tom Morello created a sound that mixed rap and metal into a sound that punched you in the face. Zack’s politics are more Marxist than Groucho, Chico and Harpo combined, and as a militant as a Black Panther on speed. Incredibly smart and articulate, he made wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt cool. But we won’t hold that against him.