This One Goes Out To Art Laboe: My Four Favorite 'Oldies But Goodies'
The Los Angeles I grew up in was scored by corridos, hip hop, mariachi and Art Laboe's oldies played on his dedication radio show. So, of course, when making a podcast through the lens of my little corner of the metropolis, we had to include the legendary radio DJ.
In the sixth episode of our serialized audio drama WILD, listeners hear the character Angela's (played by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alum Gabrielle Ruiz) backstory. It involves a chance encounter with Laboe, a love triangle and some oldies but goodies.
In a career that spanned decades, Laboe united communities in Los Angeles and beyond through his love for original classic oldies with sold-out concerts, compilation albums, and especially on his radio request show where listeners would call in and dedicate a song to someone they loved.
So in honor of that, I will give you my top four classic oldies as dedications to the people they make me think about. And to be clear, by "classic oldies," I'm referring to songs written and recorded in the 1960s before my parents ever set foot in the United States.
Listen to Episode 6 of WILD
"Angel Baby," by Rosie and the Originals
The second season of WILD is a nine-part serialized fiction rom-com for your ears. It centers a couple from Southeast L.A., who embark on a road trip adventure across America. Will their relationship survive the trip? Find out on WILD Season 2: I Think I'm Falling In Love, co-hosted by Erick Galindo and Megan Tan, and starring Melinna Bobadilla, Gabrielle Ruiz, and Atsuko Okatsuka. And while you listen to the podcast episodes, check out more accompanying stories. They will make you explore LA in a new way, even if you're a local.
This one goes out to my nephew Angel, who plays one of the WILD characters in Episode One. It's also for my sister Cynthia, Angel's mom, who named him and thought of him every time she hears this song. This oldie but goodie was written by a then 14-year-old Mexican American kid attending high school in San Diego, Rosie Mendez Hamlin. The legend goes Rosie and her friends recorded "Angel Baby" in an airplane hangar that had been partially converted into a recording studio. The sound recording is raw and incredibly beautiful, and haunting. To get the song any attention, Rosie convinced a department store manager to pump it through the store's sound system. It worked. The song peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, remaining for 13 straight weeks.
"No Particular Place to Go," by Chuck Berry
This one goes out to my friend Marisa, who shot the cover art for WILD. Marisa and I used to drive around the country in my old Grand Marquis. We would go up and down Route 66 without much of a plan or money. We were young and impulsive and, more importantly, had no particular place to go. So we blasted this song over and over again.
"No Particular Place to Go" was written by Chuck Berry after a stint in prison for tax fraud using some of the same music from one of his earlier songs. See, at the time, bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were having massive success with Chuck Berry's old songs. So Chuck decided he could do the same thing by writing new lyrics to one of his old jams. And it worked. The song peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964.
"A Change is Gonna Come," by Sam Cooke
This one goes out to my homies, especially those who traveled to New Orleans with me back when we were all young and still trying to find ourselves. "A Change is Gonna Come" is the song I would always play as we were driving into NOLA for the simple basic fact that it talks about a river. But the more I listened to Sam Cooke's poignant song about racism and segregation, the more I realized how important that song was for me as a disillusioned youth.
Cooke wrote the music in the winter of 1963 after being first denied a hotel room in Shreveport, Louisiana (about 300 miles north of New Orleans) for being Black and then arrested for complaining about it. So, like the unwavering river referenced in this song, my relationship with this song has also moved, crawled, and raged. It went from a cool river song with a haunting French horn to a piece about being an outcast with a melancholy French horn, to eventually being a powerful ballad that mixes unapologetic realism with revolutionary optimism and a defiant French horn. And to the homies, even if we don't really kick it anymore because I'm a square, I still love you and hope you found that peace that we were searching for on those magical trips to the Crescent City.
"I Hear A Symphony," by The Supremes
This one goes out to my co-host Megan Tan and the whole WILD team. Because they made a symphony out of my wild love story. "I Hear A Symphony" was written in 1965 by Motown's Hall of Fame writing and production trio Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland — otherwise known as Holland-Dozier-Holland. The trio wrote The Supreme's sixth No. 1 hit after their previous single failed to crack the top 10. That song peaked at No. 11, which they all saw as "humiliating." You have to understand they had just written and recorded five straight No. 1 singles up to that point. But "I Hear a Symphony" got them right back to the top. I'm not sure how much that matters to me, but I do think the song is quite a beautiful love song full of optimism and joy written during a time that wasn't.
How do I find the WILD podcast?
It's now available from LAist Studios. Check it out wherever you get your get podcasts! Or listen to the sixth episode on the player above.
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