A pioneer of Chicano rock, Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara performed with Frank Zappa, Johnny Otis, Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, and Celia Cruz, though he is best known as the front man of the 1970s experimental rock band Ruben And The Jets. Here he recounts how his youthful experiences in the barrio La Veinte of Santa Monica in the 1940s prepared him for early success in music and how his triumphs and seductive brushes with stardom were met with tragedy and crushing disappointments. Brutally honest and open, Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer is an often hilarious and self-critical look inside the struggle of becoming an artist and a man. Recognizing racial identity as composite, contested, and complex, Guevara—an American artist of Mexican descent—embraces a Chicano identity of his own design, calling himself a Chicano “culture sculptor” who has worked to transform the aspirations, alienations, and indignities of the Mexican American people into an aesthetic experience that could point the way to liberation.
Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara is a native Angelino Chicano musician, singer, and songwriter with Ruben And The Jets (cofounded with Frank Zappa), Con Safos, and the Eastside Luvers; a record producer of Chicano rock and rock en español compilations; and a performance artist, poet, short story writer, historian, journalist, and activist.
“I relate to Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara not because he spent his early youth in Santa Monica like me, not because we went through the ’60s side by side on the Sunset Strip, but because he is obsessed with the creative process. It’s in his blood. He gets sidetracked by constantly, impulsively, being caught under the spell of the Goddess, but art is his lifeline as it is mine. Respect.”—John Densmore, author of Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors
“Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara, LA’s irrepressible impresario and ‘culture sculptor,’ is a generous mentor and consummate collaborator. In these pages, he takes us on a candid tour of the steps and missteps that have shaped his outlook, creativity, and public productions. Part confessional, part manifesto, these writings map his evolution, through family migrations, rock ‘n’ roll highs, personal lows, and collaborations with diverse activists and artists. With a keen sense of history, and mining his compulsions and desires with candor, Guevara has penned a powerful love letter to his greatest muse of all, his ‘beloved, unpredictable city of multihued angels.’—Sojin Kim, Curator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
“Hilarious and heartbreaking, Guevara’s memoir chronicles decades of artistic and spiritual fire. I cannot recommend this work highly enough as a wonderful and wonder-filled resource for students of multicultural Los Angeles, Chicano masculinities and identities, the music industry, performance art, and spiritual seekers in the Southwest. Since it is a treat to read and a joy to teach, I urge my colleagues to share Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer with their students.”—Jacqueline M. Hidalgo, author of Revelation in Aztlán: Scriptures, Utopias, and the Chicano Movement
“With provocative observations and original insights, this illuminating musical history also incorporates poetry, performance, and education. Guevara engagingly chronicles a lifetime of financial and emotional ups and downs with honesty and vulnerability. As a meditative ‘funk monk,’ Guevara treats art as a political-spiritual calling.”—Anthony Macías, author of Mexican American Mojo: Popular Music, Dance, and Urban Culture in Los Angeles, 1935–1968
“A man sings and in his singing he carries the grace, pains, missteps, and triumphs of his life. Guevara’s memoir is such a song—de aquellas y beyond. A con safos defiance against systemic injustices and erasures of Chicanos and all oppressed people, Guevara’s book is also flesh and bone, blood and brains, beauty and truth. Sing on, brother, sing on.”—Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always Running: La Vida Loca—Gang Days in L.A.
“Guevara utilizes intimate vignettes and inspiring poetry to chart his personal and artistic evolution into an ‘artivist,’ a socially committed artist. His memoir is also an invaluable academic resource, documenting an extensive yet long-ignored history of LA’s cross-cultural artistic hybridity and the sociopolitical contributions exemplified by Guevara’s fifty-year career.”—Terezita Romo, author of Malaquias Montoya
“Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara, polymath Azteca warrior and Chicano superhero—it is difficult to imagine that there was ever a Los Angeles without him. It was as if he rose with the first East Los Aztlán sun that gave creative light to the barrio. In this book, Guevara gives us the opportunity to grab hold of his belt loop and walk with him through his sometimes glad and sometimes sad but always-inspiring life. Hang on tight.”—Louie Pérez, musician, songwriter with Los Lobos
"Rock’s greatest untold story is Chicano rock, and doo-wop is its bedrock. Guevara, with his long experience and deep commitment to both the sound and the Chicano community, is the perfect writer to tell the tale. He’s one hell of a storyteller, too, and this is one hell of a story."—Dave Marsh, veteran of Creem Magazine and Rolling Stone and biographer of Bruce Springsteen