|The Master Pedro Infante|
If I had to choose the greatest Mexican singer of the 20th century, I would have to pick El Maestro (The Master), Jose Pedro Infante Cruz, Pedro Infante.
As a child, we had four or five, 75rpm records of his songs, like "La Que Se Fue", "Ella", "El Tenampa", all scratchy, in dog-eared sleeves, the discs would often get stuck on the record player, or skip a lyric due to wear and tear. He would have been my mother's favorite, too (with the excpetion of Jorge Negrete).
He took the "people's music", the "Ranchera", and made it into a national genre, crossing all social classes, one all Mexicans could relate to and understand as he sang about cantinas, mariachis, bravado, love, jealousy, tragedy, and unrequited love, popularizing these "cantina" and "borracho" songs with his inimitable voice, and brilliant interpretation.
Like so many musicians, he became an actor in his own right, usually playing the roles of personas in his songs, a hero for the common, the poor and the downtrodden.
I loved his "gritos" so full of passion, pain and longing. Nobody can do gritos like Pedro. In some songs as in this song "Que Me Toquen Las Golondrinas", (Let Them Play For Me "Las Golondrinas"), about a man who has lost the love of his life, in a cantina drinking to "forget", he asks the house Mariachi to play for him the popular Mexican song "Las Golondrinas" (The Doves), the quintessential song about farewells, saying goodbye and letting go of something we love dearly. He even begs the bartender to "keep them coming" offering to contribute to the tab.
But note how he conveys that he is already "half drunk" with the opening grito! And listen to how at ending, he is so drunk he can hardly finish the song. Now, that's interpretation.
Makes you want to pour yourself a shot of Tequila, que no?!
He died in a planed crash in Merida, Yucatan on April 15, 1957 and as the ending of this songs says, "Adios, adios... adios", Pedro.