Querida Familia Latina

Below is a letter signed by more than 200 Latinx artists, writers, and leaders——people like Salma Hayek, Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, Eva Longoria, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Sandra Cisneros, José Andrés, and Dolores Huerta.  Printed in the New York Times and major Spanish-language newspapers like La Opinión, El Diario, and El Nuevo Herald, the group writes to all members of la familia Latina and all people of conscience as we collectively face the racial violence and fear of our present moment.

This is moving. This is necessary. This is leadership.

____________________________

Querida Familia Letter
August 16, 2019

https://queridafamilialetter.org/

Querida Familia Latina,

If you are feeling terrified, heartbroken and defeated by the barrage of attacks on our community, you are not alone.

We have been smeared by political rhetoric and murdered in violent hate crimes.

We have been separated from our families and have watched our children caged.

We have been targeted with mass shootings and mass ICE raids meant to terrify us, squash our hope, and break our spirits.

But, we will not be broken. We will not be silenced. We will continue to denounce any hateful and inhumane treatment of our community. We will demand dignity and justice.

Though real pain and fear are sweeping through our communities, we remain powerful. The indignities and cruelty we have endured will never change the truth that the contributions we make to this country are invaluable. Our humanity must be respected. And, we won’t stop organizing for ourselves, our children, and for the soul of this nation.

To our allies who feel our community’s pain, we need you. We cannot make change without your voices and action. We call on you to speak out loudly against hate, to contribute your resources to organizations that support our community, and to hold our leaders accountable.

We ask you to join us in building a better country where we are all safe and valued.

May we turn this time of despair into a time of action. May our love for one another be the guiding light in these dark times.

With our deepest love,

(Signed by over 200 actors, musicians, artists, activists, and labor and civil rights leaders, including José Andrés, Gloria Calderón Kellett, María Teresa Kumar, Sandra Cisneros, Dolores Huerta, Edward James Olmos, Rosario Dawson, Salma Hayek Pinault, Jennifer Lopez, Diego Luna, Ricky Martin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nathalie Molina Niño, Janet Murguía, Rosie Perez, Teresa Romero, Gina Rodriguez, Zoe Saldana, Roselyn Sánchez, Tanya Saracho, Bamby Salcedo, Carmen Perez, Tony Plana, Wilmer Valderrama, more)

Friday Five: August 1985

This week’s playlist is 5 songs that made it to the Billboard top 5 in August 1985.

That said, a few non-1985 things deserve mention today. August 15-18 marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Today——August 16th——is the day Santana played, which is epic in so many ways. I loved learning about Woodstock in my teen years and was blown away by the film when I saw it on the 20th anniversary of the legendary music festival.

Today is also the 42nd anniversary of the death of Elvis. It’s always been a day for me to remember the actual day (unlike Woodstock, I was alive for that). Elvis was only 42 when he died, so in about eight months he will have been dead longer than he was alive.

But today is about 1985. So here are some songs that drip, scream, and ooze that glorious year.

5. “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul even had some hits in the 1980s! This was her last #1 single——it topped the the R&B charts for the entire month of August. It even reached the #3 spot on the Hot 100, where she’d hit #7 later in the year with “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” Aside from the greatest American singer on the mic, this hit features swinging sax by Clarence Clemons.

4. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits
As iconic a song of the 80s video era as there ever was. With vocal assistance from Sting (“I want my MTV…”) and one of the most memorable guitar licks of the 80s, the song was the biggest pop success for a rock band that had been making a name for themselves in the UK since the 70s. The original song and video (below) even features a taste of the homophobic masculinity of a lot of rock. (The “faggot” verse was cut from later airings and radio play.) It hit #1 on the rock charts for three weeks in August ’85 and did the same in late September on the Hot 100.

3. “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & the News
This hit single was from the soundtrack to the even bigger hit of a film Back to the Future released that same summer. It preceded “Money for Nothing” at the #1 spot on the rock charts (it was #1 for two weeks in July) and stayed in the top 5 there for most of August——the same month it topped the Hot 100 for two weeks. It was the first time the Bay Area rockers topped the US pop charts.

2. “Saving All My Love for You” by Whitney Houston
It peaked at #2 on the R&B charts in mid-August and then dropped to #3 by the end of the month, only to hit the top spot in the first week of September. It would do the same on the Hot 100, but not until October. The second single from her debut album, Houston was just at the start of a career of hits. For my money, this is one of her best and one of my favorites. The song was part of the plot of an episode of the TV show Silver Spoons——the show starring Ricky Schroder——on which she also guest starred. That was one of my shows, but it’s the story of the song (told through the vantage point of “the other woman”) and her vocals that stuck with me even then.

1. “Shout” by Tears for Fears
I put this song at the top of my list specifically because I never really liked it. That’s because at the same time, the song was hard not to hear on Top 40 radio. It was on all the time! And that means I had to think about how much I didn’t like the song frequently, which means it’s a big part of my 1985. When I hear the song today, I don’t change the channel. It’s an alright song (kind of basic but undeniably catchy) that really deserves respect for being a part of most people’s version of 1985. It was #1 on the Hot 100 for three weeks, just before Huey Lewis.

Friday Five: August 1984

My weekly music posts are a chance to tell me biography in micro form though something that I loved and continue to love. There’s an inherent nostalgia in that, one I’m happy to embrace. This week it might be hard for me to avoid it.

It’s easy for me to be nostalgic about 1984. I turned 12 that year, and even then it felt like the start of a new period in life. In retrospect, it was probably the start of my long teenage period where you’ve got one foot in being a kid and another on the cusp of adulthood. It’s like a stretch where you can never reach the thing you’re reaching for but it also never quite feels out of reach.

The movies that changed my life that year were perfect artifacts of that same dynamic. Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom both came out, inspiring the need for the PG-13 rating. Movies like Ghostbusters, Sixteen Candles, The Natural, The Karate Kid, and Romancing the Stone were not only entertaining, they also made me and my friends feel like we were peaking into a grown-up world that was (or would be) for us.

This week I want to capture the feel of August 1984. I have something to say about all these songs, even though I wasn’t a huge lover of all of them. Still, they are each a slice of 1984.

5. “Round and Round” by Ratt
This one would later peak at #11 but it was moving up with a bullet in August 1984. Quiet Riot and their massive hit “Cum On Feel the Noize” dropped the previous year. Early in 1984 Van Halen released 1984 and shortly after the Scorpions released Love at First Sting. That’s the short version of my first steps into the hard rock and heavy metal world. This song sounded harder than pop at the time and even a little harder than the hard rock. Stephen Pearcy’s vocals not only had an edge to them, they communicated a kind of disdain that felt good. Liking this song made me feel “metal” even though it was more in the line of the big hair 80s rock that would explode on MTV throughout the decade. I love it still.

4. “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen
I had never heard of Bruce Springsteen until 1984. The weirdest thing about that was all these people you saw on TV who not only had heard of him, they worshipped him. This song didn’t help me understand that at all, but it was a catchy song that appealed to a lot of us. The first single from his Born in the U.S.A. album (which is one of the best-selling albums of all-time), it peaked at #2 in early summer and was on its way down the charts by August. It was still in heavy video rotation, though. And people couldn’t stop talking about “the short-haired girl” he danced with on stage. If somebody my age sees somebody dance like these two dance in the video (something that doesn’t and shouldn’t happen all that often) they immediately think of this video.

3. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
It was the cultural phenomenon of the 1984 charts. The theme song to a great comedic film which killed at the box office. It was the second highest grossing film of the year and——at the time——the highest grossing comedy in cinematic history. The song might not have been as financially successful, but it was as big a pop cultural hit. It peaked at #1 for three weeks in August. You couldn’t turn on a radio that summer without hearing it at least once. And everybody was going around asking each other “Who you gonna call?”

2. “When Doves Cry” by Prince
Everybody I knew loved Prince. Many people I knew loved him the way others love Michael Jackson (or the way those older people we saw on TV liked Bruce Springsteen). 1984 was the year of Purple Rain and this song from the album (which was a soundtrack to the film) was the first single released from it. It was Prince’s first number one hit record, topping the charts for five weeks ending the first week of August. I suppose the staying power of the song means it’s kind of timeless for most folks. For me it is, but at the same time it sounds exactly like 1984 to me, too. Musically, it’s just about as perfect as perfect comes.

1. What’s Love Got to Do with It” by Tina Turner
I was raised on a lot of “oldies”——mostly a lot of 50s, 60s, and 70s R&B and soul. Still, I didn’t know Tina Turner until 1984. I probably wasn’t alone. What I remember about the hype surrounding this song (what you heard on talk shows, on entertainment news, and on the radio) was the way it was a comeback for a music artist, one that catapulted her (at the very non-pop star age of 44) to even greater heights than she had known in the past. Her first release from her massively popular album Private Dancer, the song became her first and only #1 and her first top ten single since the early 1970s. Few songs sound more like 1984 than this hit, and few songs demand your attention like it does. When we saw her perform this on TV everyone would always say “Look at her! She’s still got it!” What we didn’t fully understand was that the power of Tina Turner is that she just can’t ever lose it.

Invasion Politics

Fox and Friends is a morning show on the “news” station we know as Fox.

As any regular watcher of late-night comedy shows knows, the hosts spend a good chunk of time defending racist-in-chief Donald J. Trump. Today, Brian Kilmeade (who is one of those hosts) had this to say in defense of the wide spread calling out the President for his frequent and habitual use of the word “invasion” when discussing the passage of Spanish-speaking migrants across our border:

What the president has during his two and a half years is a major problem at the border which was not his doing——unless you want to blame President Obama for the unaccompanied minors that streamed through here in 2014. When you have over 110,000 people coming a month, over a million last year and then well over a million this year, if you use the term “an invasion” that’s not anti-Hispanic, it’s a fact. [Source]

The Merrian-Webster dictionary defines the word “invasion” like this:

1: an act of invading (especially an incursion of an army for conquest or plunder)
2: the incoming or spread of something usually hurtful

When you have a million people a year——not one solider but hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children——trying to cross your border and enter your country, the only “fact” is that you are witnessing a refugee crisis. De-humanizing language that portrays poor migrant families in need of refuge as a danger, a threat, and an attempt to “take over” the country are not only wrong, they are openly racist.

Friday Five: July 1983

1983 was one of those years. Michael Jackson was huge and the way everyone talked about it, he was a global cultural phenomenon like none before him. With Michael being Michael, everything else about music felt a little bigger. It felt like we were all looking for the things that were bigger than just hits. We were looking for magic.

Or maybe there wasn’t anything special about it. Maybe it was just the fact that I was 11 and the things that are big when you’re 11 make a big imprint on you. Michael made the world of music into something bigger than an 11 year-old could wrap his head around.

Let’s change it up this week. Instead of five songs from the top five of July 1983, here are five songs from the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending July 23, 1983——the end of the fourth week of July. There’s a lot of that year’s hits on the charts that month, lots of songs I could write about. I’m going to stick to ones I liked or that had an impact on me.

5. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson
By July this former #1 song (it ruled the charts for three weeks in April and May) only came in at #53. No matter. As part of the Thriller album that made Michael into Michael, it still has never gone away. “Billie Jean” was the bigger hit record, but “Beat It” was the more interesting video——with its street gang subplot——and more interesting song——with Michael going rock and guitar work by the master himself, Eddie Van Halen.

4. “1999” by Prince
It was released in fall 1982 and had made it to #44 on the Hot 100 by Christmas. Re-released in 1983, the song reached #12 in July, its peak position on the charts. The album 1999 was Prince’s first with his band the Revolution and, in many ways, it was the start of the cultural wonder that he would become. While I would always be a bigger fan of his earlier album Dirty Mind, 1999 was the kind of new sound that was undeniable and mesmerizing. The song is iconic, as is the video. For me, it was the start of a “Highlander”-like (“there can be only one”) contest between Michael and Prince. You had to be either. But there was no way not to love both.

3. “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard
It came in at #22 in July, a few steps shy of its peak position. It was the song my friends and I loved from the album Pyromania, produced by the legendary rock guru Mutt Lange. 1983 was the year of Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon, Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, Metal Health by Quiet Riot, and Mötley Crüe’s Shout at the Devil. I was awash in rock and new metal. “Rock of Ages” was a song some people made fun of (and still do).
It was a song I felt I didn’t need to justify. I just liked it. And, after all, it’s better to burn out than to fade away!

2. “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie
David Bowie was a legend to many before I ever heard of him. It’s still an odd thing to me that he became a known figure to me in 1983 because he was experiencing his biggest commercial success with his album Let’s Dance. I’d later become semi-obsessed with his Ziggy Stardust work but at 11 his Nile Roger’s produced pop sounded pretty damn good. This title song peaked at #1 in May for only one week and dropped to #67 by the end of July, far behind his climbing single “China Girl.” The vocals here still grab me in ways the other tracks never did. (The closing guitar was by Stevie Ray Vaughan.)

1.”Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Taco
There are so many good songs that came out in 1983 and this is not one of them. But I was only 11 so my taste can be forgiven. This cover of a 1927 song written by Irving Berlin (once famously recorded by Fred Astaire) hit the #33 spot in July on its way to #4 two months later. Performed and interpreted by an Indonesian-born Dutch singer named Taco, the song was a hit with everyone I knew. We joked about the singer’s name in my house, me and my friends would break dance to the song (it was not a typical break dance song), and it was one of those collective musical experiences of the time. The synthpop sound and simple video were made for the early MTV era. I don’t remember any controversy from the use of blackface in the original video, although it was apparently edited out of later versions.

Friday Five: June-July 1982

With all that’s been going on, I’ve been a little off my game with my Friday Five posts. Let’s play some catch up and focus in on five top five hits from June-July 1982.

It was a big year for me. I turned 10 years old in May 1982 and that school year——with the help of my parents, who drove me to the recycling center——I started recycling newspaper. That made me enough money to buy two things that year: a brand-new Atari 5200 that summer and, in the early part of the year, a portable Toshiba radio with a built-in cassette deck.

That Toshiba might be one of the most important things I ever bought. I had already joined Colombia House, a “record club” where you got about 12 albums for one penny in exchange for agreeing to buy another five or so at “full price.” With my new Toshiba my preference switched from vinyl to cassette tapes.

I also started making tapes of my favorite songs recorded from the radio. That was the best thing about my Toshiba and the reason I most wanted to buy it. Before I got it, I had to sit there listening to one or more stations non-stop just hoping that my favorite song would come on. With my Toshiba, I started recording those songs as they came on, giving me the ability to listen to them whenever I wanted.

It was a big time for me. I knew what I liked and what I liked also started to change with both my record club membership and the hits of the time. Most of these songs were on at least one of my homemade cassette tapes.

5. “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
In some ways time hasn’t been as kind to this hit as you’d expect. Despite the fact that it’s recorded by two musical legends and sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks between May and June 1982, it’s not a song that gets much replay on “oldies” radio today. I think some of that is about the message of the song, something that seems a little trite and basic to our present ears. The sentiment——rooted in a kind of optimistic and uncomplicated idea of race racial oppression, and whiteness——doesn’t hold up well. Maybe the same can be said for the sound. The synthetic melody feels like 1982, and not always in a good way. That said, it was a massive hit record for two major musical figures. To give you some perspective, it was Paul’s biggest hit record of his post-Beatles career and, even without that qualifier, it was his second biggest hit of all time, second only to the juggernaut of “Hey Jude.” I suppose that enough makes it deserve some recognition. For me, in 1982 there was no musical artist for whom I had more reverence and respect than the great Stevie Wonder. He made it legit for me.

4. “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by the Human League
When “Ebony and Ivory” was ruling the pop charts, this synthpop song broke into the top ten. By the end of June it peaked at #2 before hitting the top spot for three weeks in July. None of that captures the fullness of its popularity. It was the biggest single of the year on the UK charts and one of the break through songs in the US for the electronic sound that came to characterize the new wave pop of the 80s. It was also always on the radio. As a kid, I remember liking it but also finding it weird and different, from the lyrics to the sound.

3. “Rosanna” by Toto
Toto might be one of the most famous “studio bands” in history. The guys knew their craft well and made their mark as a studio musicians on a number of other people’s albums. By 1978, they had formed as their own band. 1982 was their peak year. Their album Toto IV was their biggest ever, catapulted to success on the heels of two chart toppers (including this single). Some of the guys were among a group of musicians who played on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and so this was a big year for them for other reasons, too. I was an okay fan of this hit, which peaked at #2 in June and July, kept out of the top spot by the #5 and #1 song on this week’s list. But I wasn’t a huge fan of it. My appreciation grew with time. When drummer Jeff Porcaro died in 1992 (he was only 38), the stream of drummers who sang his praises elevated my appreciation of the song. Porcaro knew what he was doing, and he was skilled at doing it. While the song hasn’t had the renaissance of their other hit “Africa” it’s a great rock song, with a killer beat, and appealing vocal work by Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather. It won the 1982 Grammy for record of the year.

2. “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar
I didn’t have to try and record this song from the radio. It was the first vinyl album I bought at full price for my Columbia House record club. I don’t remember why I decided to buy the album, but over the summer of 1982 it grew on me. John Cougar had a sound I liked and his lyrics——sentimental and filled with character and imagery——was made of the stuff I would later become obsessed with via writers like John Prine, Tom Waits, and Townes Van Zandt. The song peaked at #2 on the Hot 100; his follow-up single “Jack and Diane” hit the top spot later that fall.

1. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
If there was a song I bought my Toshiba radio for, it was this hit by Survivor. I recorded this song from radio play more times than any other in a quest to get the full song without any voice interruption from the DJ. It wasn’t too hard that summer, since the song was ubiquitous. It was the song from the movie Rocky III, which my 10-year-old self thought just might be the best movie ever made. I saw the movie in May when it was released, and my obsession with the song started immediately after. I’d sing it at the top of my lungs though, to this day, I’m not sure about half of the lyrics. It was the band’s biggest hit. It reigned at #1 for six weeks starting in July and going into August. I still think of Sylvester Stallone and Mr. T every time I hear it. The opening guitar work might just be the musical equivalent of testosterone.

Keep On Keepin’ On

I had a follow-up appointment today. My last one ended with me being admitted back into the ICU. After today’s appointment, I went to lunch with my family and then took a nap in my own bed. I think we can call this one a win.

I’m doing well. The swelling is getting better every day and the doctors were as pleased with my healing as I was. My pain is pretty much non-existent right now beyond the occasional headache, which is also good. I am sleeping better with each day, too, which is an important part of the process. Sleeping has also pretty much always been one of my best skills, so it’s nice to know I still got it.

So things are good and moving forward. I’m not back to normal, of course. I’m still really tired. I still need to watch out about lifting heavy things or straining myself. But all that should keep getting easier and better with time and rest.

This is mostly over but it’s also the start of a new normal for me. I’m going to be getting MRIs for the rest of my life. I may have to get radiation if the tumor comes back. There’s a lot of possibilities ahead of us but they’re all better than what we just faced.

So for now, we’ll just keep on keeping on.