Southern Californian baby boomers got a nostalgic musical fix earlier this month when The Beach Boys, cruised into the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for their 50th Anniversary Tour. On Friday, June 15, their Spanish-speaking counterparts will get their own trip down memoria lane, when--in a rare appearance-- music legend Leo Dan, performs at Santa Ana's West Coast Theatre. If you were born in the '60s or '70s, and your parents spoke Spanish, there's a possibility--nay, a likelihood-- that you were conceived while one of Mr. Dan's tunes played on the AM radio.
In the English-speaking world, the '60s represented a time of social unrest as the so-called innocence of the 50s was fading out. Although there were plenty of tunes documenting these transitions, a lá Bob Dylan and Jim Hendrix, there was still room for the love-making ballads immortalized by the likes of Marvin Gaye. Pop music at the time balanced between socially conscious protest anthems and the romantic melodies that the carnal hormones commanded.
Dan, an Argentinean crooner born Leopoldo Dante Tévez experienced strife in his homeland as well at the time, as the country embarked on its own dark journey of economic instability, civil unrest, and political oppression. Although Argentina also had its share of political and philosophical troubadours/folk singers such as Mercedes Sosa, Dan focused his talents on the ways of love. He began his musical career in his native Argentina,but found international fame after conquering the Mexican music market, often adopting mariachi music into his sound.
His repertoire includes the '60s hit "Mary Es Mi Amor (Mary is My Love)" that flows with smooth piano and a carefully-plotted string section as Dan wails about a girl named (you guessed it) Mary. Then there's the mariachi-inspired "Celia," which describes a blossoming (gag, I know!) love in the springtime.
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Of course the butterfly and roses side of love is typically balanced with the pit-in-the-stomach and heartache side, which Dan also does flawlessly through old pop hits such as "Como Te Extraño Mi Amor (How I Miss You My Love)". And nothing epitomizes the cry-your-eyes-out heartbreak like the violin-filled "Esa Pared (That Wall)," which could easily refer to those metaphorical walls we erect during wicked love games. But the song is more commonly known as a love anthem for those separated by geographical and physical walls-- lovers who are left behind.
A quick YouTube search of the song leads you to a video compilation of people jumping the U.S./México border wall. All of a sudden the song takes on a more profound meaning, especially in the context of the period when desperation at the hands of civil wars and political imprisonment in Central and South America was the driving force of immigration. Perhaps the socially conscious tunes and the love songs of that era weren't as far apart as one would think--which explains why the Prince of Soul could easily transition from "What's Going On" to "Let's Get It On." For that same reason, Dan's songs are not only timeless, but as relevant today as ever.
Leo Dan performs at the West Coast Theatre, in Santa Ana on Friday, June 15th at 8 p.m.