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Sing Now, Die Later 

The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez: Part 1

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"When I was in junior high and my dad would play the banda music, I'd be like, 'Turn it down. My friends are going to hear.' Now it's the other way around," he said. "I'm turning it up, and my parents are turning it down. When I was younger, I was ashamed of Mexican music. Now I know who I am. I'm not afraid of my race."

 

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His goal was to be "as big as Vicente Fernandez," the great Mexican ranchera singer.

 

He never got the chance. Last April, Viera and his fiancee were in the parking lot of a Denny's restaurant in Bellflower. A tall, thin young man approached them, pulled a pistol from his shirt and fired several times into Viera, who died in the parking lot. His fiancee was unharmed. Viera was a well-known ladies' man - he even kept a scrapbook filled with photographs of himself with an array of young, beautiful women, and he'd had children by three of them. Many suspect the shooter to be a jealous boyfriend, friend or brother of one of Viera's ex-girlfriends, but so far the case remains unsolved.

 

What had been implicit in Chalino's music turned explicit and extreme in the torrent of "corridos pesados," or drug corridos, emerging out of the small L.A. labels. Singers posed with massive weaponry. On his album Mi Oficio Es Matar (Killing Is My Business), Jesus Palma shouldered a bazooka. Singers who had never done many narcocorridos found they had to sing a few if they wanted to sell records. Recently, one company even released an Alvin and the Chipmunks-style album of corridos for children.

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