This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Mexico has featured in quite a lot of songs. That’s not too surprising considering that the country borders Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, all of which harbor very talented songwriters. Some of those will appear today.
Of course, Belize and Guatemala also border Mexico, but their songwriters are less well known, at least in the English speaking world.
Had the album “Waitress in a Donut Shop” been MARIA MULDAUR’s first solo album everyone would have raved about how good it was. Justifiably so.
However, her first was an eponymous album that is one of the finest ever recorded, so anything that followed that one was certain to be downgraded. It’s time to lift up that second one and give it the kudos it deserves.
From that one we have Gringo en Mexico.
Here’s just another band from East L.A., as they like to call themselves – LOS LOBOS.
Much of their music is Mexican in origin or very much influenced by the music of that country. Their song references both their antecedents and the country in which they live: Mexico Americano.
When I was first selecting songs for this column, I chose a bunch and let them roll. When this next one came up, after a single line I knew it had to be present.
The harmony vocals were gorgeous. I wondered who they were and checked it. It was JANN BROWNE, sometime lead singer for Asleep at the Wheel, and EMMYLOU HARRIS (no more needs to be said).
They perform a song written by Jann along with Pat Gallagher and Roger Stebner. It’s called Mexican Wind.
It’s understandable that Americans would write about Mexico, but it’s not so obvious that an Australian would do so. After all, it’s a long way away, and it’s not just a matter of hopping in the car and driving down there.
One of my countrymen, however, seems to be the expert on writing songs about the country, some of the best around really. That person is KEVIN JOHNSON.
I like films (and songs) with an enigmatic ending, and this is one of those: Grab the Money and Run.
This next song was a really difficult choice for me, not the song itself, it was an automatic inclusion. The choice was which version to include. Normally, I’d go with the writer, and he was one of the two about whom I was tossing and turning.
He is Ian Tyson. However, for once I’ve gone for a cover version. It’s not too surprising that I’ve gone with my musical crush, JENNIFER WARNES.
If anyone can equal a performance of Ian’s, it’s Jennifer. Here she sings Blue Mountains of Mexico.
Here’s a group I bet you haven’t thought about for some considerable time - KATRINA AND THE WAVES.
Katrina is an American who found fame in Britain in the eighties, particularly with the song Walking on Sunshine. One song that didn’t get much airplay is simply called Mexico.
It’s not too surprising that MARTY ROBBINS would be present.
After all, if you listen to some of his biggest hits they sound as if they were recorded in Mexico. They weren’t of course, but he was really fond of Mariachi trumpets in many of his songs, including this one, Bound for Old Mexico.
The song Mexican Divorce was written by Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard. It was first recorded by The Drifters who did a fine job of singing it. It was later covered by Ry Cooder and later still by NICOLETTE LARSON.
As good as the other versions are, I really like Nicolette’s and that’s the one we have today.
DELBERT MCCLINTON has a story not too dissimilar to Kevin Johnson’s.
Unfortunately for Delbert, it ended worse than it did for Kev. You can never tell the consequences of a falling out among thieves. Delbert goes (or at least he started to go) Down Into Mexico.
Back in the late seventies, STEVE FORBERT was touted as the next big thing, the new Bob Dylan (there was a bit of that at the time).
That didn’t eventuate, not through lack of talent; Steve has that in spades. It was due to management issues and disagreements with his record company that prevented him from recording for many years.
He performed during that time and has been recording again for the last couple of decades. His song is Mexico, a different song from Katrina’s.
You were probably expecting this one, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint you. I’m talking about the song, rather than the singer. Enough waffle, here is the singing cowboy (or one of them), GENE AUTRY.
Gene was the first of the famous singing cowboys – there were others before him but they didn’t catch on to any great extent. Of course, there was another who followed him, and he was Roy Rogers. However, here is Gene with South of the Border.