San Antonio-based music critic Enrique Lopetegui got the writing bug as a teen when he sent a fired-up missive to a newspaper in his native country of Uruguay. In it, he criticized a martial arts style whose progenitor could allegedly kill bulls with a single punch — a claim that does sound like bullshit. It's easy to see why Lopetegui was pissed.
The letter ran in the paper, and the rest is, well, history.
It's history because Lopetegui wrote it, and he continued to write because he was unimpressed with the state of South American music criticism. But he didn't stop there. By 1984, he'd relocated to LA, where he'd become a Hare Krishna and worked in an ice cream shop. Eventually, he landed a gig as the Los Angeles Times' Latin pop music critic, then became the Current's music and screens editor from 2008 to 2014.
It may be that Lopetegui's early letter defined his style, because the pieces collected in his new book Nobody Told Me Nada: Latin Pop, Llama Poop & Other Unexpected Writings: An Enrique Lopetegui Selection (1992-2021) are short and punchy — not unlike a well-crafted letter to the editor.
Published by Yulelé Media, the book also is organized chronologically, so the pieces reflect his career arc as a music scribe. Some read like dispatches from the frontlines of the live music circuit. For example, he opens a piece about South Texas music legend Freddy Fender with the choice quote "When I read in Rolling Stone that 'Thee Midniters were the original rock en español,' I wanted to puke."
In Nobody Told Me Nada, Lopetegui repeatedly pulls off a maneuver that separates world-class cultural critics from aspirants: describing music and placing it in context. His ability to do that is on full display in a 1992 LA Weekly piece about Mexican rock band La Lupita that might as well have hypertext. By 1993, the writer was talking to Mexican pop icon Juan Gabriel about slam-dancing and sexual orientation.
Ginóbili Though the collection's early writings are focused on Latin music, by the time Lopetegui's award-winning San Antonio era arrives, readers get to see him expand his focus to include interviews with and essays about B.B. King, Morrissey, Charlie Chaplin, Slash, Manu Ginóbili and Linda Ronstadt. Lopetegui's profile of San Antonio's much-missed Girl In A Coma is one of the highlights, as is a confrontation with Public Enemy's Chuck D over the weakness of the Democratic Party.
Through this whirlwind, Lopetegui's fearless spirit is always on full display.
"With all due respect to the New York Dolls and the Ramones, I boldly declare: without [Emerson, Lake & Palmer], there would be no punk," he writes in a piece on the often-derided prog rock trio. Lopetegui then follows up that bold statement by asking the band's Carl Palmer himself if drum solos are just excuses to "show off."
A man not afraid to piss off martial arts masters, prog legends or punk rockers. Godspeed, sir.
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