WRITTEN BY Louie Perez, David Hidalgo
PERFORMED BY Los Lobos
APPEARS ON How Will The Wolf Survive? (1984), Just Another Band From East L.A.: A Collection (1993), El Cancienero: Mas y Mas (2000), Wolf Tracks: The Best Of Los Lobos (2006)
NOTE This song about a man trying to provide for his family seemed perfect for Father's Day. Happy Father's Day to my dad -- still a great father at age 81 -- and all the fathers and fathers-to-be out there.
I first saw Los Lobos back in 1984, sometime between April and June, in Austin's old Soap Creek Saloon (the South Congress location). I remember the timing because my wife was well along in her first pregnancy and she swore that our son-to-be danced in her womb throughout the show.
The band ran through every song in its repertoire. We cheered for more, and a sweaty, exhausted David Hidalgo emerged from the dressing room to pick out "Sleepwalker" on his pedal steel. When he finished, he promised us that "That's all we know." Fair enough: We went home more than satisfied.
Later that year, Los Lobos released How Will The Wolf Survive?, their first full-length albumThe album served as a template for decades live performances: An eclectic mix of styles and songs marked by socially conscious lyrics that precluded neither romance nor partying. The tender "A Matter of Time" and the rocking "I Got Loaded" proved that you could dance fast or slow to the Los Lobos beat, while "Corrido #1" and "Serenata Nortena" paid proud homage to their Mexican roots. Wolf was quite an achievement for a new band, and remains today an essential part of the Los Lobos canon.
Best of was the title track closing the album. A wonderfully conceived allegory, "Will The Wolf Survive" told the story of a working man envisaged as an endangered species beset by social forces ("Hunters hard on his trail") beyond his control. Considering that the song was written 25 years ago, its bridge is remarkably prescient in its depiction of the shrinking middle class:
All alone in a world that's changedRunning scared now forced to hideIn a land where he once stood with pride
The bridge appears directly after these lines:
He's got two strong legs to guide himTwo strong arms to keep him aliveWill the wolf survive?
In other words, "in a world that's changed," characterized by "the chill of winter" and the "pouring rain," are working class assets enough to provide for a family, "the one thing he must keep alive"?
At the same time, of course, "Will The Wolf Survive?" echoes Los Lobos determination to make it in a tough business with surrendering their ideals. (For those who don't know, "lobo" is Spanish for "wolf"). Whatever happens, however difficult the future may be, Los Lobos serves notice that they will witness for the wolf with their "battered drums and old guitars/Singing songs of passion." This spirit has animated a distinguished body of work that has echoed across nearly 30 years of continuous recording and performing.
LYRICSThrough the chill of winterRunning across a frozen lakeHunters hard on his trailAll odds are against himWith a family to provide forThe one thing he must keep aliveWill the wolf survive?Drifting by the roadsideClimbs a strong but aging faceWants to make some honest payLosing to the rainstormHe's got two strong legs to guide himTwo strong arms to keep him aliveWill the wolf survive?Standing alone in the pouring rainAll alone in a world that's changedRunning scared now forced to hideIn a land where he once stood with prideBut he'll find his way by the morning lightSounds across the nationComing from your hearts and mindsBattered drums and old guitarsSinging songs of passionIt's the truth that they all look forSomething they must keep aliveWill the wolf survive?Will the wolf survive?