Raise Your Guitars In Honor Of The Late Pinoy Rock Legend Pepe Smith
He might have moved on to the next life, but Pepe Smith's biggest fans know he'll forever live on in this world, thanks to his immortal guitar solos, fearless drum playing, and that voice that set the stage for Pinoy rock and roll to flourish.
"Ang himig natin, ang inyong awitin, upang tayo'y magsama-sama, sa langit ng pag-asa," sang the 71-year-old rockstar as he fronted Philippines' inimitable band, Juan dela Cruz, countless times.
"Ako'y may kaibigan, at s'ya'y nahihirapan; handa na ba kayong lahat upang s'ya'y tulungan?" the song continues, its lyrics his multi-generational followers will continue to hear in his voice despite the hundreds of times they've been covered by musicians who have made him their hero.
Pepe Smith, the son of a US military man and a Filipino mother, is a legend; during an era dominated by dance, disco and pop, he insisted on creating music for the head-banging set, a large chunk of which reflected the times' most pressing social and political issues.
Underneath his musical prowess and wild-haired onstage persona was a mission to prove that Pinoy rock and roll could be something: a catalyst for change, a time capsule of his generation's deepest desires and biggest dreams, a way to bridge then, now, and what has yet to come, an indisputable glue to unite Filipinos.
And just like visionaries with the skill and ambition to transform daydreams into reality, Pepe succeeded.
His sincerity and dedication not only landed him and his bandmates very special seats in Philippine music history, but also busted the doors to international stardom wide open. To audiences around Asia and beyond, Pepe brought them the power of Pinoy rock and roll, helping introduce them to the world-class talent of his countrymen.
To him, his chosen genre was never just about mindless noise and behaving irreverently (although Pepe did, of course, have a rather deep well of anecdotes to draw from when answering questions about his wildest stories as one of the country's biggest rockstars. A tribute to him will never be complete without acknowledging that time he was jailed for alleged drug pushing, or when he wrote "Himig Natin" in 15 minutes or so while supposedly under the influence).
Without Pepe and the bands he was a part of, arguably, there would be no OPM as we know it.
The drummer, guitarist, and vocalist passed away on the morning of January 28, a month after he celebrated his birthday in December, after being rushed to the hospital. His cause of death has yet to be announced, but it is speculated that multiple strokes (coupled with decades of smoking, the use of recreational drugs, and continuous touring and shows) had finally taken its toll on him.
Pepe is survived by his five children: Queenie, Sanya, Beeop, Delta, and Desiderata Smith.
Photos from @sanyasmith007