If a Filipino music fan that has listened to decades’ worth of songs, is asked who might be best identified as being the foundation of the “Pinoy Rock” genre, it would have to be the Juan de la Cruz Band. It started in 1968 as a five-player ensemble with an ever-changing lineup, but the band roster became more stable in the 1970s when it became a trio, with founding members Wally Gonzales and Mike Hanopol being joined by drummer – later guitarist – Joseph William Feliciano, or “Pepe” Smith. He himself became an unforgettable P-rock icon, actively performing well into his seventies, until his death this Monday.
CNN Philippines reports that Pepe Smith, rock singer, instrumentalist and songwriter, passed away this morning of January 28 at the age of 71. One of his daughters, who announced his death on social media, related that her father suddenly had difficulty breathing at home. Smith was then rushed to the hospital where he eventually succumbed. There was, however, no official word as to what this condition was that caused his death. Desiderata “Daisy” Smith-Owen did make mention of Pepe no longer having to suffer pains in her death announcement, in reference to the rock icon’s recent string of health troubles.
In the past several years alone, Smith had been through three strokes: the first in April 2015, one more in July of 2016, and a third time in November 2017. The 2015 stroke had the most profound effect on the musician, as it left him with some difficulty in speaking clearly, on top of the injury to his jaw that he got from a car accident back in 1994. Another of his daughters, retired MYX VJ Sanya Smith, also posted a photo together with her father as a tribute online.
Born in 1947 to an American serviceman and a Filipino mother, Pepe grew up being brought by his father to Clark Air Base, which fueled his other great lifetime passion of collecting model aircraft. His was also an early introduction to music, forming a rock band in 1959 at only age 11. While he originally patterned his singing after Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, he eventually evolved into a style that is all Pepe Smith, before joining the Juan del la Cruz Band in 1970 which would lead to immortal rock anthems like “Titser’s Enemy No. 1,” “Balong Malalim,” “Beep Beep” and “Himig Natin.”
Image courtesy of Inquirer Entertainment