How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

More MorrisseyOke (Morrissey + karaoke), the audio version

Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC

What is MorrisseyOke? Why Morrissey + karaoke, of course.

Today's Madeleine Brand Show featured a segment (with me as guest) on the latest incarnation of Latino L.A.'s well-documented love of Morrissey, the pop icon and former lead singer of The Smiths. Every other month or so, the DJ at a Boyle Heights bar called Eastside Luv spins original Smiths and solo Morrissey songs, dubbing down the vocals so that patrons can sing over them.

Then people take turns climbing onstage and belting out classics like "Shoplifters of the World Unite" and "Barbarism Begins at Home," karaoke style. It doesn't matter if it sounds good. It's Boyle Heights, it's Morrissey, and it's one big sing-along pachanga for fans who, like me, were raised on an Eastside soundtrack in which The Smiths figured prominently.


What is MorrisseyOke? Exactly what it sounds like (Video)

Several months ago, I saw a tweet that about made me jump out of my chair. I don't remember exactly what it said, only that it was from the Boyle Heights wine bar Eastside Luv and that it referred to something called "MorrisseyOke." Which could only mean one thing.

Now, it's no news flash that in places like Boyle Heights (and Huntington Park, South Gate, Downey, Pico Rivera, Norwalk, West Covina, Santa Ana...yes, places where Latinos live), there are some huge fans of Steven Patrick Morrissey, aka simply Morrissey, the pop icon and former lead singer of the 1980s British band The Smiths. Their music played an important role in the soundtrack of my Eastside upbringing, as it has for many others.

For years, writers and filmmakers - heck, there's even a forthcoming book - have documented the love we Latino types have for Morrissey, whose lyrics capture a sense of alienation that many a kid living between two cultures is bound to feel at some point. In L.A., even our local Smiths cover band is fronted by a Latino. Some, like the OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano, have pointed out how Morrissey's songs of longing and angst echo the emotion of classic rancheras sung by old-time Mexican crooners (and to be fair, most of Morrissey's Latino fans in L.A. are Mexican American, though you'll catch the occasional stray Salvadoran or Cuban as well.)