There are oldies and there are Chicano oldies.
The music that resonated with the brown baby boomers of East L.A. is largely African American rhythm and blues music. It’s heavy on harmonies, on some interesting guitar work, and on a lot of soul. It’s the kind of music that was popularized in dance halls, and it sounds like slow dancing. End of the night slow dancing. Had too much to drink slow dancing.
There are many kinds of oldies, and many kinds of sounds that could legitimately count as “Chicano oldies.” My bias here are the slow songs, the ones I most associate with my youth and with East L.A.
5. “I Do Love You” (Billy Stewart)
This 1965 recording was Stewart’s first big hit. The harmonies and piano and guitar interplay make it one of my favorites. It’s certainly a classic from a man whose career was cut short at the age of 33.
4. “La La (Means I Love You)” (The Delfonics)
This 1968 song was the biggest hit for this Philadelphia-based quartet turned trio.
3. “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” (Barbara Lynn)
A guitar-playing, rhythm and blues-singing trailblazer, Lynn wrote and recorded this chart-topper in 1962.
2. “Daddy’s Home” (Shep and the Limelites)
Their first and last big hit, from 1961. Makes me think of the end of the night.
1. “Angel Baby” (Rosie and the Originals)
The 15-year old Rosie Hamlin (who was half Mexican) wrote this song as a poem to her then boyfriend. She recorded it with her friends in a San Diego studio, just for themselves. It ended up securing them a recording contract in 1960. It also ended up being their only hit. Such a vocal and guitar masterpiece.