Monday, November 21, 2016

The One Thing We Must Keep Alive

This rousing song by Los Lobos has been one of my favorites for more than thirty years. The video for it has a corny '80s feel to it now (not to mention the poor digital transfer), but it's worth a look if only for the footage of David Hidalgo and the rest of the band. In three verses and a bridge "Will the Wolf Survive?" manages to be about a lot of different things: wolves (at least as a metaphor), migrant workers and their families, cultural survival, and the truth: "something they must keep alive." (Of all of those things, wolves would now appear to be the least endangered.)

Los Lobos are still very much active, in a line-up that is unchanged except for the addition of a young and very able drummer; I saw them last night on a double-bill with the great Mavis Staples (who was in very fine form). They didn't play this song, nor did I catch any overt allusions in their music to recent political developments, but their presence itself was a reminder that there's more than one way to be American. The band switches comfortably from English to Spanish in their songs and they're perfectly capable of playing traditional norteño styles of music, but they identify as "a band from East L.A.," and they happen to be one of the great rock and blues bands of the last forty years.

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