Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Pedro Navaja

Last week, I mentioned Rubén Blades once again, it must time to talk about him. This prolific artist has a remarkable story, which is closely tied to Fania records. Those who watched the PBS documentary (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/latinmusicusa/#/en/wat/02/01) might remember the story about Blades wanting to write and sing Salsa music so much that he begged Fania for a job. He eventually got the job-- as an orderly in the mail room. From there he rose to become one of Fania's main stars.

It is difficult to choose just one of his songs to spotlight here, but let's start with a well known one:

Pedro Navaja by Rubén Blades.

This song is to Salsa what Louis Armstrong's Mack the Knife is to jazz. In fact Blades drew inspiration from Louis Armstrong for the song, just watch the video. But the song also draws from Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, and is a narrative about Pedro, a quintessential New York thug who is outwitted by a street smart woman.


The song first appeared in Blades' 1978 Siembra, an album that sold over 25 million copies and which held the record for best selling salsa album for over 15 years.

"Eight million stories has the city of New York" he sings, "life gives you surprises, surprises gives you this life" goes the choir.

Some film makers succumbed to the temptation of Pedro Navaja's story and made the movie without Blades' authorization. As the film was released, life gave the filmakers another surprise: Blades released the second part of Pedro Navaja, a song appropriately titled, "Sorpresas" (in the album Escenas, 1985). The song effectively changed the end of Pedro Navaja's story thereby rendering the movie obsolete. However, "Sorpresas" was never a hit or even a popular song.

Some final notes about Ruben Blades: he ran for president of Panama, he has been Panama's Tourism Minister, he holds a Master's in International Law from Harvard, he has his own Podcast, he still writes and sings his very own style of Salsa, and if it had not been for Teddy Roosevelt, he would have been Colombian!


Ok, again just for fun:

2 comments:

Notorious MLE said...

This is one of my fav songs. Love it.

Mayra said...

Me too!