Pepe Aguilar, in his office in the Valley, wears his mantle as the scion of a cultural dynasty comfortably. His new album, his 24th, pays tribute to his father Antonio Aguilar's rival Vicente Fernandez, "the last of the Mohicans," as Aguilar calls him.
For a fifth of our audience, he needs no introduction, but the rest of you have been missing out.
Pepe Aguilar sings Mexican ranchera music, and has sold more than 12-million records. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, 45 years ago, but he was brought up on tour.
His father was the late Antonio Aguilar, one of the greats of ranchera music, and his mother is Flor Silvestre, a singer and actor from Mexico's golden age of cinema. Last year, he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Pepe Aguilar's new album — his 24th — is a tribute to yet another of the greats, his father's rival Vicente Fernández. It debuted on iTunes at #1, and is called "Lástima Que Sean Ajenas," a joking reference to the Vicente Fernández song, "Lástima Que Seas Ajena," which translates roughly as "it's too bad she doesn't belong to me." The album's title, switching out "they" for "she," could be read as "I wish those were my songs."
"If you have grown up in the last three decades and you are a ranchera singer like me, Vicente Fernández has to be one of your idols," said Aguilar. "It's the Last of the Mohicans, that guy. It's a different story. People listen to many genres, not only one or two. For me it was important to close that era with my tribute to the last of the Mohicans."
Many children of stars who follow their parents' footsteps are tormented because they can never measure up. You can hear in that quote that Pepe Aguilar doesn't seem to have that problem. If anyone is allowed to close a door, it's him.
Aguilar says music is all he ever wanted to do, whether or not he made money from it. And if changing times means he may never experience the cultural dominance his parents enjoyed, 12-million records and a #1 debut on iTunes — coming in his 13th year as an independent artist — is nothing to sneeze at. And, in my opinion, where his father's voice had character, Aguilar's is fuller, more soaring and beautiful.
Aguilar says he strives to make music that has no boundaries, and there's no good reason more Anglos shouldn't buy his albums, even though they're sung in Spanish. The voice, the arrangements, the production values, the pure romance — they're all irresistible.
Frankly, isn't it better to not speak the language when you put a make-out album on the turntable? (Barry White's lyrics are distracting.)
Pepe Aguilar puts on a hell of a show, in charro costume, with a full band, and he has two concerts coming up. Thursday, Nov 21, at San Manuel Casino in Highland and Friday, Nov 22, at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.
Aguilar shared his favorite tribute songs with KPCC. Listen to his Spotify playlist and tell us who else deserves a tribute album on Twitter using #PepeAguilarKPCC — or in the comments below.