“May baril, walang bala. May bulsa, wala namang pera.”

“Kawawang Cowboy” by Fred Panopio | Let’s swerve yet again – we’ll have a stretch of what you might call “novelty” songs. With the state of Filipino music today people forget (perhaps willingly) that there was a stretch of time when comedy songs were popular, and everywhere. Do we call Fred Panopio that? He released a lot of songs, a significant chunk of them set to popular tunes of the time. “Kawawang Cowboy” is definitely Glenn Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”. But there are a couple of other things he’s known for. He yodels – “Pitong Gatang” is perhaps his most popular song where you can spot that. Also, despite the joke-y nature of some of his songs, they really are proper, straightforward ones, perhaps speaking some truths about where we are, or at least where we were. Granted, his songs have not aged well – you’re likely to associate Fred’s music these days to Sunday mornings, when your grandfather has the radio on. But in these days where music has to be completely straight-faced to be taken seriously, Fred reminds us that it does not have to be. And while he was not the first to do so – YouTube sidebar adventures led me to D’ Big 3 Sullivans, who were popular in the 60s – he’s somewhat paved the way for that. [NB]

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