Why Freddy Fender? Why today?
Because any day is a good day to remember one of the brightest of the shining Tejano lights, a genre-crossing star who — along with artists like Doug Sahm, Flaco Jiménez, and Augie Meyers — introduced Tejano music to the world and combined it with everything from country to rockabilly.
And above all, there was his voice. His angelic voice.
For all his recordings in English, and recordings in Spanish and English, he never sounded more at home — more content — than singing the Spanish of his native South Texas.
Lost love is a major theme in Tejano, Conjunto, Norteño, and Canción Ranchera music. I can’t think of any other musical forms where tougher guys produce more tears.
And no “lost love” song I know tugs at the heartstrings — mine, at least — more than Freddy’s “Before the Last Teardrop Falls.” He recorded several versions, but my favorite was done completely in Spanish. The best I could find combines Spanish and English. The song was actually written as a country song by Vivian Keith and Ben Peters, but Freddy’s recording — the most famous — gave it the full-Tejano treatment.
Si te quiere de verdad
si te da felicidad
les deseo lo mas bueno a los dos
pero si te hace llorar
a mi me puedes hablar
yo estare contigo cuando triste estes
And here is Freddy, accompanied by the greatest living Conjunto accordionist — Flaco Jiménez — singing el más grande de todas las canciones de amor perdido — “Volver, Volver.”
A word about Flaco Jiménez, playing here with Raul Malo in a great live performance.
Flaco is the legendary Tejano music accordionist from San Antonio, Texas. You may not know it, but you have heard him on many classic recordings including the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge.
His artistry is most fully realized in the Tejano sounds of south Texas. My favorites are the ballads of lost love in which Flaco’s accordion seems to shed tears.
He is a national treasure, Grammy winner, and – most of all – a quiet and serene artist who, in his brief smiles, makes clear how much he loves his music.
By the way, Flaco’s father Santiago Jiménez Sr. was one of most important musicians in the history of Conjunto music.
Which leads to a strange transition: With no small amount of embarrassment, I begin – with Flaco – my list. You know which one. The list.
1. See Flaco Jiménez perform live.
And while I’m at it:
2. Drive the southern route from New Jersey to Los Angeles.
3. See Los Tigres del Norte perform live.
4. Hike the full-length of the Napali Coast trail on the island of Kauai.
Enough. For now.
It never fails.
If I am laying down, happy and serene, my mind often goes here and here and here and here and here .
Please see this gem of a film if you can. And check out la reina de las malandrinas, Jenni Rivera.
Some things never leave you. Some things always give pleasure.
Treasure them. Protect them. Return to them.