There are two albums I’ve been immersing myself in lately: Los Lobos’ ‘The Town and the City‘ and Ry Cooder’s ‘Chávez Ravine‘. The Los Lobos album hasn’t left my truck’s CD player in weeks. It’s great to have one of those albums that you can keep repeating over and over, and find something new and fresh with every listen.
But ‘Chávez Ravine‘ has been muscling its way into my listening time lately. It’s been out for a few years now (it was released all the way back in June 2005). It’s a concept album, I guess you’d call it, based on the story behind Chávez Ravine – the current site of Dodger Stadium a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Before Dodger Stadium was built, Chávez Ravine was home to a poor but tightly knit Latino community. You can find out more about the details behind it here, but suffice it to say that in the end, the city of Los Angeles forced the community out, either in the name of eminent domain or condemnation. The sheriff’s department physically moved the last holdouts of Chávez Ravine – in a standoff that would come to be known as “The Battle of Chávez Ravine”. Once the community was razed, the city filled in the ravine with dirt from the top of a nearby hill, and Dodger Stadium was born.
The second to last song on the album is “3rd Base, Dodger Stadium”. Sung from the perspective of a man who grew up in the neighborhood that is now the interior of Dodger Stadium, the song will rip your heart out. Just a taste of the lyrics…
Back around the 76 ball, Johnny Greeneyes had his shoeshine stall.
In the middle of the 1st base line, got my first kiss, Florencia was kind.
Now, if the dozer hadn’t taken my yard, you’d see the tree with our initials carved.
So many moments in my memory. Sure was fun, ‘cause the game was free.
It was free.
The wonderful, unique voice you’ll hear is Bla Pahinui, a Hawaiian singer that Cooder brought in for this song. Call me impressionable or sensitive or whatever, but this song really affects me. I’m one of those history buffs who has a keen interest in the people and places that came before. It’s hard to gauge how many others feel the same way. As the thousands of fans watch the baseball games from the stands of Dodger Stadium, how many of them are even aware of the people of Chávez Ravine – the lives, the childhoods, the first kisses that took place beneath the grass and parking lots?
Ry Cooder (w/ Bla Pahinui) – 3rd Base, Dodger Stadium (mp3)
Buy Chavez Ravine