Hey Lupe, Lupita mi amor

I think the Nashville-based surf revival band Los Straitjackets rocks. I mean, they wear lucha libre masks on stage…what’s not to love? In 2007, the group released Rock en español, Volume 1, an album comprised of Spanish-language covers of 60s songs like “Give Me a Sign” (“Dame una seña”) and “All Day and All of the Night” (“De día y de noche”). It’s awesome. My favorite is “Hey Lupe,” the band’s cover of The McCoy’s 1965 hit “Hang On Sloopy,” which also happens to be the official rock song of the state of Ohio. Here’s the band with Big Sandy on vocals playing it in Santiago de Compostela last year.

But the idea of covering songs in Spanish from rock’s early days is as old as the genre itself. Starting in the 1950s, Mexican groups would cover hits by artists like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley for Spanish-speaking audiences. It was called Mexican Rock or Rock nacional, and it led to a mixing of US popular music with Latin rhythms that would later result in Chicano Rock and artists like Carlos Santana.

One of the biggest Mexican Rock groups was Los Rockin Devils, which was formed in Tijuana in 1962. They were one of the early signers of the genre to Orfeón, a Mexican record company that battled against US giants CBS Records and Capitol Records to sign acts to sell to Mexican audiences south of border and in communities in the American Southwest and Southern California. Here’s LRD doing their own version of “Hey Lupe” and an energetic rendition of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ “Woolly Bully,” retitled “Bule Bule.” By the way, Sam the Sham (Domingo “Sam” Samudio) was of Mexican descent himself.

Often these songs had large changes in the lyrics, in order to fit the original melody and rhythm of the song. So something like this…

Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on
Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on

Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town
And everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down
Sloopy I don’t care what your daddy do
‘Cause you know, Sloopy girl, I’m in love with you

would be turned into something more like this…

Es Lupe
Lupita mi Amor

Es Lupe
Lupita mi Amor

Lupe es la linda dueña de mi amor
Y todos en la prepa la quieren conquistar
Lupe baila muy bien el ritmo del rock
con ella en las fiestas todos quieren bailar

But as you can tell from listening to just the two versions of “Hey Lupe” here, no two bands do it the same and neither do it exactly the way I have it here. Anyway, it wasn’t long before these bands started writing original music, and I was wondering today if that had something to do with all the lyrical rewriting they did for these covers. It’s just a thought.


5 responses to “Hey Lupe, Lupita mi amor

  1. Excellent! Those 1962-era proto-hippie chicks can really shake it!

    Translating song lyrics or poetry must be pretty difficult. I have tried doing simple word-for-word translations for my own amusement. For example, a line from Riders on the Storm from the Doors (there’s a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad) in word-for-word Spanish is something like:
    Hay un asesino en la carretera, su cerebro se retuerce como un sapo.
    Kind of hard to picture El Rey Lagarto singing that, right?

    Here is a link to a translation of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. I can’t vouch for how good it is:


  2. That’s awesome!

    I’d like to see “Peace Frog” in Spanish. I bet “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding. Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind.” would also make for an interesting translation. Ja!

  3. I love that song “Hey Lupe”

  4. “My Girl Sloopy” by The Vibrations is the original. The (“Hang on Sloopy”) versions by The McCoys and by The Yardbirds came later.

  5. Fantastic website. Plenty of useful info here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks in your sweat!