We all know that the legendary Filipino rock icon Joseph William Feliciano Smith was born December 25, 1947, raised by his mother, Conchita Feliciano but not entirely when it comes to his father, Edgar William Smith, a US serviceman. Obviously, he needed to go back to his country to fulfill his job. A singer-songwriter, drummer and guitarist who formed his first rock band at age 11, in 1959 which was first called The Blue Jazzers, later The Villains, and then The Surfers.
A few years later, Smith became a rock sensation in Manila as the drummer and lead vocal of Eddie Reyes and the Downbeats band, imitating Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. This earned him the title “Mick Jagger of the Philippines”. It was 1970 when he joined the seminal Pinoy rock group Juan dela Cruz together with Mike Hanopol in bass and Wally Gonzales in guitar. The band became quartet a few years later with the addition of Edmond Fortuno (a.k.a “Bosyo”) in drums.
He’s a former member of Anakbayan. Due to his addition to the band, Smith decided to play the guitar instead. He’s also good in guitars so it isn’t a problem. Aside from being “Jack of all trades” (as I may say it) when it comes to musical instruments, Pepe Smith also took a huge part in Juan dela Cruz where it was him who composed Juan De la Cruz’s arguably most classic song “Himig Natin”.
“Ang himig natin ang inyong awitin
Upang tayo’y magsama-sama
Sa langit ng pag-asa”
You might wonder why we have the so-called “Pinoy Rock” today. It is due to their track which became the anthem of Manila’s post-hippie culture and underground radio network, particularly the DZRJ-AM radio show, Pinoy Rock ‘n’ Rhythm which was later on shortened to “Pinoy rock”. So if ever you wondered what brought this “Pinoy Rock” to Filipino music industry, Juan Dela Cruz did it most especially, Pepe Smith.
Reverting back when Pepe Smith was still with The Downbeats, those who witnessed the concert of The Beatles at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila in 1966 definitely knew that The Downbeats were one of the performers who opened the concert for them along with Eddie Reyes performing “Get Off of My Cloud”. Try asking your older relatives if they knew about this. Pretty sure they know.
Although today isn’t a good day to do a throwback, allow me to bring you back in the previous music era, listening to the timeless songs and performance of the also known as Father of Filipino Rock, Pepe Smith.
Like a Rolling Stone cover by The Downbeats– Originally song by Bob Dylan. This song was recorded a few years before they formed the Juan dela Cruz band. It is said that the Downbeats original member’s in this record was Tony Jalandoni in guitar, Charlie Meelieb also in guitar and Tonet Fabie in bass while Pepe Smith were in vocals and drums.
Ihip ng Hangin by Pepe Smith from the album, “Idiosyncracies”. I highly admired the lyrics of this song. By simply listening to it you could already feel the dedication that he expressed in this earnest piece. This was originally composed by Pepe Smith himself.
(Acoustic version by Pepe Smith live from his house in Baguio City-source: YouTube)
“Ibibigay ko sayo ohhh
Kaligayahan ng buong mundo oh oh oh oh
Masdan mo ang bahaghari
Tulay na papuntang langit”
Beep beep beep by Juan Dela Cruz band– The song that would surely create hype at an instant due to its startling instrumental. This song was included in the band’s masterpiece album where it unleashed the full power on their listeners. This also became the symbol for Philippine mode of public transportation– the Jeepney.
“Beep beep beep beep
Sabi ng tsuper ng jeep
Beep beep beep beep
Tabi kayo’t baka kayo’y maipit”
Pepe Smith and his former bands had given a huge impact to the Philippine music industry. Among all the OPM bands today, it was them who were first to marked in their industry. Am I the only one who can’t help to sing when their song “Titser’s Enemy No.1” plays? I guess not.
To this end, there was a writer from Inquirer who wondered about the consideration of including the category “National Artist for Pinoy Rock” in the National Artist Awards. It also came to my mind. At first, I was thinking twice if there is already but then it turned out that there’s none. I was wondering when it will happen. Let us not repeat the event of the posthumous award of Fernando Poe Jr. as The National Artist because in my opinion, it isn’t worth-it. What for? When the supposedly awardee has died already. He can no longer appreciate that but only his family. At least this time, let us prove that it is not only Ramon Santos (National Artist awardee for music) and his co-living awardees will be the only living National Artist awardees as the years passed. I immensely hope that “National Artist for Pinoy Rock” will soon be included in the category because if that time comes, I’ll definitely nominate for Pepe Smith, the Filipino rock icon!
At least before it’s too late.