The 12th studio album from Ry Cooder was his first concept album and historical album telling the story of Chavez Ravine. The Mexican-American community was demolished in the ’50s in order to make way for public housing. That housing was never built and, instead, the Brooklyn Dodgers stadium was erected on that site when they moved to L.A.
Chavez Ravine was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 2006.
Ry Cooder’s Chavez Ravine is a post-World War II-era American narrative of “cool cats”, radios, UFO sightings, J. Edgar Hoover, red scares, and baseball. The album is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Latino enclave known as Chavez Ravine. Using real and imagined historical characters, Cooder and friends creates an album that recollects various aspects of the poor but vibrant hillside Chicano community, which was bulldozed by developers in the 1950s in the interest of ‘progress’; Dodgers Stadium ultimately was built on the site. Cooder says, “Here is some music for a place you don’t know, up a road you don’t go. Chavez Ravine, where the sidewalk ends.”
The musical strains of Los Angeles, including conjunto, corrido, R&B, Latin pop, and jazz, conjure the ghosts of Chavez Rvine and Los Angeles at mid-century. On this 15-track album, sung in Spanish and English, Cooder is joined by East L.A. legends like Chicano music patriarch Lalo Guerrero, Pachuco bookie king Don Tosti, Three Midniters front man Little Willie G., and Ersi Arvizu, of The Sisters and El Chicano.
A Los Angeles native, Cooder had been working in Cuba since 1998, producing The Buena Vista Social Club, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ferrer’s Buenos Hermano, and Mambo Sinuendo – all Grammy Award winners. Three years in the making, Chavez Ravine marked his musical homecoming.
“Los Angeles was paved over, malled up, high-rised, and urban-renewed, as fortunes were made, power was concentrated, and everything got faster and bigger,” comments Cooder. “But there is a lot I miss now. The texture of certain older neighborhoods, like Bunker Hill, a rural feel in urban places, like Chavez Ravine and the timbre of life there, and just peace and quiet,” he says.
“a magical-realist street opera celebrating the life and death of the barrio that the Dodgers killed.” (Mike Davis, author, city of Quartz, Excavating the Future in Los Angeles)