“The Journey of ‘Viva Tirado'” (Essay, 2010)

“The Journey of ‘Viva Tirado’: A Musical Conversation within Afro-Chicano Los Angeles.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 22.4 (2010): 348-66.

Journal essay (editor-reviewed).

Traces the various iterations of Gerald Wilson’s 1962 composition “Viva Tirado,” and how it has facilitated conversations between multiple generations of African Americans and Mexican Americans in Los Angeles.

Background: A little over a dozen years ago, Josh Kun introduced me to what I describe as the “multiple iterations” of “Viva Tirado,” a jazz song originally composed by Gerald Wilson in 1962. The song was the most prominent of many written by Wilson – an African American bandleader – dedicated to Mexican and Spanish culture. Seven years later, in late 1969, it found new life in the hands of El Chicano, a band of young Chicanos out of the Los Angeles eastside who themselves were steeped in Black R&B and jazz styles. Their version of “Viva Tirado” became the definitive one, covered by many other artists through the 1970s, including in Italy, the Netherlands, Jamaica and Panama. In 1990, parts of their version became interpolated and sampled into “La Raza,” the groundbreaking Chicano pride rap song by L.A’s Kid Frost. The essay traces that journey, and in doing so, explores how the song has managed to be at the center of cross-cultural conversation between multiple generations of Blacks and Chicanos in Los Angeles. (A audio mix of many versions of “Viva Tirado” was included on the JPMS web site). A longer version of this essay, which updates it with a 2010 song by Akwid, is forthcoming (as of 2022) as part of an anthology on popular songs.

Note: I mis-“placed” Kabuki Sukiyaki in Baldwin Hills when it’s very clearly (and rather obviously) in the Crenshaw district (3840 Crenshaw, to be exact). Embarrassing error on my part.