Cruisin’ al lado del varrio Aztlán. Some of you guys may recognise that Chicano voice. Yep, that’s our man from the San Francisco Bay Area—Richard Bean. Bean is most recognised for his lead vocals on the classic lowrider oldie, “Suavecito” (1972). “I Can’t Make It” is a more obscure song, but it’s a gorgeous one, too. I bet you didn’t know Richard Bean has been a long-time Hayward, CA resident. Oh, yeah, reprazent for the East Bay.
“I Can’t Make It” by Sapo
In Voices of Latin Rock: People and Events that Created this Sound, author Jim McCarthy recounts some early experiences involving Malo and Sapo:
“‘The second [Jorge Santana] album, Three Mile Island [It’s All About Love (1979) by Jorge Santana], was recorded in 1979 in New Orleans. We were staying at Allen Toussaint’s house out on the Bayou. Toussaint told me that Tomato [Records] had gone bankrupt, so we did the rest [of the album] at Allen’s on his studio time. That’s why he has […] songs on there; that was the trade-off. I remember having to borrow $2500 off Carlos [Santana] just to get the band back home. We didn’t even finish the horn stuff I wanted to do.’
“Jorge [Santana] later put together another version of the band with Richard Bean, who also co-wrote much of the music. ‘We had another four-piece band called Jet; really a rock sound that took people for a loop,’ Bean says. ‘Again, people were expecting a Latin thing but it was a big rock sound. We did one performance at Lincoln Park; it was a big crowd. We started doing ‘Suavecito.’ The biggest Latino dudes came onstage holding up this gigantic Mexican flag. The bouncers couldn’t move them. It was like the national anthem to them. I had tears in my eyes. It was one of the best moments in my life.’
“After leaving Malo, Richard and his brother Joe Bean auditioned players for a new group they were forming called Sapo. The personnel included conguero Raul Rekow and bassist José Simon (presently working as a well-known comedian). ‘We auditioned loads of players; we had a fourteen-piece band at first,’ Bean says. ‘I had songs like ‘I Can’t Make It,’ which was ready for the second Malo album, and I started writing a lot of new material. We got Raul from Malo, after another one of Rubinson’s meetings. [We had] Phil Scoma, our guitar player before Oscar Estrella, who was a happening guitar player! Kincaid Miller, our keyboardist was hanging out with Neal Schon around then. He’s playing with Pablo Cruise now.’” 
“Suavecito” (1972) by Malo [featuring Richard Bean on lead vocal and Jorge Santana on guitar]
SLIM’S—In the annals of Bay Area music, Malo’s “Suavecito” will no doubt go down as the ultimate Latino love song. The San Francisco Latin rock group’s 1972 hit featured the voice of Richard Bean, who wrote it. Today the longtime Hayward resident is still going strong with Sapo, now celebrating 40 years of performing his tune with the band he formed after leaving Malo.
Known as the greatest Chicano love song of all time, Malo’s “Suavecito” is 40 years old this year. Malo’s 1972 Top 20 hit single was written by timbale player Richard Bean, who initially wrote it as a poem for a girl in his high school algebra class. The song has also been called The Chicano National Anthem. “I have heard it so many times that it almost is part of my brain, I think Richard Bean (along with Pablo and Abel) really created a sweet Latin lovers anthem, the song is simple, like all great love songs and I think it is very romantic. Richard was/is a great songwriter with a very different aspect to his writing. I wonder how Malo would have fared had he and Abel stayed in the band. Well, Malo got a Top 20 Billboard hit that has lasted for 40 years and means a lot to Chicanos…” ~ Quote from Jim McCarthy writer for “Voices of Latin Rock” on his opinion of “Suavecito.”
Forty years after its release, Bean is enjoying a new generation of fans who recognize his songwriting skills. The song that originated as a love letter that was never opened instead was intercepted by generations of listeners who continue to discover the joy of Bean’s lyrics. “I think it has more meaning to the people who are listening to it now,” said Bean. “To me, it’s always been ‘Suavecito.’ I love that song. I don’t think about the times when I wrote it. I just think about the people that are listening to it, that enjoy it, and the fact it’s brought something to them.”
Sapo, live at The Avalon (circa 2012)
Learn more at SLIM’S.
“Just With You” by Easy Company
“By the Fireside” by Mystique
“Suavecito” by Mystique
 Jim McCarthy and Ron Sansoe, Voices of Latin Rock: People and Events that Created this Sound, (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2005), 194.
[Last modified 16:57 CDT 10 MAY 2015]