Chicano Soul: Recordings and History of an American Culture
By: Hannah Fields
The first-ever history of Mexican-American soul and R&B music, “Chicano Soul: Recordings and History of an American Culture” has remained an oft-referenced study of a vital genre belonging to the American music experience.
The book, which Ruben Molina first self-published in 2007, was inspired by his passion for vinyl records and Chicano Soul music that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. Beginning with early influencers and pioneers of the genre, such as Para Los Puchos and Ritchie Valens, to artists involved in the political awakening of the mid-sixties, Molina leaves no stone left unturned.
With accounts of musicians and musical groups from Los Angeles to Phoenix to San Antonio and all the spaces in-between, Molina takes readers on musical journey that spans across the southwest. However, in order to bring all of this information together, Molina had to embark on a project that, in essence, was a labor of love.
While hunting down Chicano Soul records, Molina also began to seek information on ways to contact the people who recorded these albums. Much of his inquiries took place through multiple plane rides to various locations, such as Albuquerque and Dallas, and through phone interviews from his home in Los Angeles. Through interviews with musicians and the fans who followed their shows during the 50s and 60s, Molina was able to compile a compelling history that will undoubtedly withstand the test of time.
Molina also believes his book is only the start to what will be an influx of literature being published on Chicano Soul music, mainly thanks in part to young adults who are discovering and embracing this area of their cultural history.
“I think in the very near future there are going to be more books with more detail on specific bands," Molina said. “I have a friend in El Paso who is focusing on the city of El Paso and their musicians. I have friends in San Antonio and in Houston who are doing the same thing. You're going to start seeing more detailed books coming up through the grapevine. It's all young kids connecting with a part of their history and culture.”
“Chicano Soul” is a love letter to long lost recordings that not only challenged the assumptions and stereotypes of what Latin music could or should be, but also tells and important story about the evolution of an essential realm of American music.