Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Indestructable

Ray Barretto died last Friday, and I feel punched in the heart because of it. I just happen to read an obscure news ticker today announcing the news which disappointed and saddened me considering his contributions to jazz and salsa. Considering his contributions to me.

I listened to this Indestructible album a million times, over and over again, during a time I felt especially lonely; an adult-lost lonely not the wise-child kind I had known well. I was about twenty-two and I was sinking. I was losing ground. I felt I had reached a breaking point to which I could keep my own self afloat without support or help or want or love. It was beginning to seem pointless to think so hard and feel so much. Purpose escaped me and my strength receded. When Barretto made this album, he had gone through a spiritual transformation. Most every song he recorded on this record was about radical bravery rooted in faith in oneself and in a sense of power bigger than oneself. A power to which we are connected and contributing. Because of it, we are indestructible. We are able to beat back the negative, beat down the odds, come out more than ok; come out empowered. A million times I listened to this and I cried and I fucking felt sorry for myself that I had to beat down some more odds, and I stopped sinking.

I was able to see Ray Barretto perform once. This was after his album had helped saved me, and a live performance was only icing. Seeing him live was more about me paying respects to him. He was headlining a megabill for a salsa festival at the Hollywood Palladium. The festival started early, around 7pm, and by 1am Barretto had not gone on yet. Only a small crowd of die-hard musicians, jazz buffs and dancers was left in the audience. And when he finally came on stage, we all huddled just under him and cheered. He was positioned in the middle of the stage, behind a semi circle of four congas, in the center of his impressive and devoted band. "!Vaya Las Manos Duras!" someone yelled, and Barretto lifted his huge hands to finesse the drums for us lucky few.

Thank you, Ray Barretto. I will play your album for my little girls tomorrow. I'll play it loudly and explain a lot of the words before the memory of the great latin pioneers completely fizzles out on a one-line news ticker.

10 comments:

Marigoldie said...

Wonderful tribute. I really do understand the feeling, that sinking realization that all this music (and everything it meant to you) could just get lost in the clutter. I get so sad when my heroes pass on. We probably shouldn't feel that way, though, since these people were fortunate enough to have left a lasting mark. We should all be so lucky.

madness rivera said...

I did feel embarrassed for a minute that I wanted to cry when I heard the news. I thought, It's a celebrity that I didn't even know. But there were many nights when it was just me and Ray on full blast driving around in the car as I tried to sort shit out.

It does seem good music dies unless someone takes an effort to really resurrect it. I hear Marc Anthony is making a movie about Hector Lavoe, another latin music great; a melancholy singer that will break your heart with his voice. Most people know Marc Anthony from all the People zine crap, but he has a phenomenal voice and thank god he's making a Hector Lavoe movie. Thank god.

la vie en rose said...

What a fabulous tribute. I'm not familiar with his work but I am familiar with the way a musician can reach out to you through rythm and lyrics and litterally save you. I've been saved many, many times. Springsteen carried me through my divorce and I have cried so many tears with Eric Clapton.

Server Girl said...

wow...i didn't know he did all that! So crazy and sad that he died :(

Marigoldie said...

I also respectfully say that I think Ray's album cover would've been a good SPT for him.

madness rivera said...

HAHAHA - Me too. I think an album cover is the ultimate SPT. Except for February's theme.

Michelle Fry said...

I'm a bit emberassed to say I never heard of him before. I think your tribute is great and it made me want to experience his music. The good news is that he lives on his music.

madness rivera said...

Oh don't be embarrassed! I don't think a lot of people have heard of him unless they're a salsa or latin jazz buff. I was positive though, that everyone has had an album or three like that in their life. Like la vie noted.

Example that he's not as well know as he should be: I realized that I only have the Indestructible on cassette. Cassette? So, I went on iTunes to download it and they don't have it. I mean, he did make 50 albums! They only had four. Indestructible is sold on Amazon though, thank god.

andrea said...

thank god for music. and musicians like ray baretto. they keep us afloat more times than not, move us to action, become the catalyst for personal change.

I can totally understand that impulse to cry.

Athena said...

oh this is a precious entry.