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Gerald Wilson, El Chicano, and 'Viva Tirado'

Bobby Espinosa, keyboard player for the groundbreaking LA band El Chicano.
Bobby Espinosa, keyboard player for the groundbreaking LA band El Chicano.
Bobby Espinosa's MySpace page

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LA and the jazz world are mourning Gerald Wilson, a worldwide jazz giant who lived in LA and who died Monday at the age of 96. Gerald Wilson was a jazz trumpeter who played in the big bands, he was a bandleader, and he was a venerated teacher.

RELATED: Gerald Wilson's son talks about his dad on KPCC's Airtalk.

But Wilson was also a composer, and he wrote the song "Viva Tirado," which became a huge hit for a band out of East LA called El Chicano, and was later sampled by Kid Frost. As Oliver Wang wrote a few years ago on his blog:

"Viva Tirado" is at the center of a rather remarkable, multi-generational conversation between L.A.'s Black and Brown communities. After all, here's a song, originally written by a Black composer in honor of a Mexican bullfighter, covered by a Chicano band steeped in Black R&B and jazz, then sampled by the first major Chicano rap artist. It seems no matter where the song goes, it's always a bridge between cultures.  -- Oliver Wang

Just how big Gerald Wilson's composition (he always called them "numbers") was comes through loud and clear in this 2009 Off-Ramp interview between Jesus Velo of the band Los Illegals, and one of his heroes: the late Bobby Espinosa of the band El Chicano, who remembered when "Viva Tirado" hit it big in 1970.

Watch El Chicano perform "Viva Tirado" live in 1971