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.
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.