Spotlight Series: Los Lobos

This Saturday, Los Lobos—East L.A.’s eclectic musical veterans, known and loved for their blending of cumbia, blues, R&B and roots rock—will treat Levitt Los Angeles audiences to a high-energy performance that is sure to get everyone dancing.

With over four decades of music making under their belts, it has become clear that the way the band described themselves in their 1978 album title—Just Another Band From East L.A.—could not be further from the truth. Since forming in 1973, this multi-GRAMMY-winning band has gained the love and respect of audiences across the globe.

Given this group’s long and prolific career, perhaps the best way to learn about Los Lobos is through their music. Here are 10 milestone tracks that exemplify the band’s characteristic sound while showcasing their musical growth over the years:

  1. Anselma” (1983): After receiving encouragement from 1980’s rock band The Blasters, L.A.’s powerful indie label, Slash Records, decided to sign local East L.A. rock band Los Lobos. The band’s first album produced under the new label, Time to Dance, included “Anselma,” which went on to win a 1983 GRAMMY for Best Mexican American Performance.
  2. “Will the Wolf Survive?” (1984): This title track off How Will the Wolf Survive? was inspired by a National Geographic article entitled “Where Can the Wolf Survive?” which inspired the members of Los Lobos (or in English, “The Wolves”) to reflect upon their own journey to survive the American music industry while staying true to their Mexican roots. With this album, Los Lobos made their first of many appearances on Billboard’s “Top 200” Album List. This title track also went on to become a country hit for Waylon Jennings.
  3. La Bamba” (1987): By the time Los Lobos covered this Mexican folk song made popular by Ritchie Valens in 1958, the band already had been making music together for 14 years. This highly recognizable track was featured as the title track in the 1987 Valens biopic, La Bamba. This song went on to reach the #1 spot on singles charts in 11 different countries, including Billboard’s “The Hot 100” chart here in the United States. The music video for Los Lobos’ version also won the 1988 MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film.
  4. “La Pistola y el Corazón” (1988): This was the title track from the band’s 1988 album, a project which marked a return to the original and traditional Mexican music the band had played in the late 1970’s. Los Lobos took home their second GRAMMY Award for Best Latin American Performance for their work on this album.
  5. Bertha” (1991)”: This Grateful Dead cover, which Los Lobos often performed live, was featured on the rainforest benefit album Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead. This song gives listeners a glimpse into the band’s late 1980’s-early 1990’s, a period filled with extensive travel and opportunities to tour with music industry giants like Bob Dylan, U2 and the Grateful Dead.
  6. Kiko and the Lavender Moon” (1992): This track was released on one of the band’s more experimental albums, Kiko. The songs on this album reinforce the band’s connection to East L.A. and celebrate their Mexican American roots.
  7. “Canción del Mariachi (Morena de mi Corazón)” (1995): This lively performance by Los Lobos and actor Antonio Banderas was featured on Desperado’s original motion picture soundtrack (which was primarily scored by Los Lobos). In addition, their song “Mariachi Suite from the same album went on to earn the group a GRAMMY for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1995.
  8. “Is This All There Is?” (2004): This track comes off the band’s album The Ride. In 2004, Los Lobos brought together an array of seasoned guest musicians like Tom Waits, Café Tacuba, Bobby Womack and Elvis Constello to cover past Los Lobos tunes and bring a new flavor to the album’s originals. This track features the famed soul vocals of Willie G.
  9. “Oo-De-Lally” (2009): This track comes from the group’s playful, 2009 album, Los Lobos Goes Disney, containing reinterpreted Disney Classics.
  10. “Tears of God” (2013): This live, semi-acoustic album was recorded over two nights in New York City and released in celebration of the band’s 40th anniversary. This song first debuted as the closing ballad on the band’s 1987 album, By the Light of the Moon.

After 42 years of making music, 20 albums, four compilations, and dozens of guest appearances, Los Lobos is still going strong. Very strong. Next Friday, 9/25, Los Lobos will release their 21st album, Gates of Gold. Click here for a preview.

Be sure to check out this living legend on Saturday as they wrap up Levitt L.A.’s 2015 concert season. And for folks in Arlington, Bethlehem, Charlottesville, Cleveland, Memphis, Middlesboro, Pasadena or Trenton, check out the other free concerts happening this weekend!

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