I was wondering how long it would take for me to stumble upon some Spanish-language singles, and I’m glad to see that it didn’t take me very long at all. I have Mexican ancestry and was encouraged my entire life to embrace those parts of my culture and while I’m far from fluent in the Spanish language, I grew up around it long enough to be able to interpret it fairly well with little need for help in translating the overall message of the phrase. With this in mind, Piero’s “Mi viejo” may actually be the perfect song to review, since it’s a pretty slow Spanish-language folk song that moves along gently, line by line, and incorporates pretty simple phrases throughout its duration, making it pretty easy to roughly translate. Of course, since I’m not fluent, there will undoubtedly be a lot of deeper contextual stuff that will go over my head – but I’ll try my best!
I’ve never actually heard of Piero before today (as with many of the musicians I’ve covered on this Random Single challenge), but he’s apparently a wildly popular iconic figure in his home country of Argentina. “Mi viejo”, while a pretty good example of his simple folk style, doesn’t really pair up with most content of his material, which tends to tread on topics of Argentinian politics and social satire. And with like pretty much every folk artists, he’s even recorded a bunch of children’s music. “Mi viejo” is one of his earlier hit singles, wherein Piero attempts a relatively more personal topic. Where his more popular recordings, like “Vengo”, “Tengo la piel cansada de la tarde”, and “De vez en cuando viene bien dormir”, often have a backing of drums, tambourine, keys, and eccentric background singers helping him out, “Mi viejo opts for a sparser approach. It’s pretty much just Piero and his guitar softly strumming along, with the keys and singers being much more milder and giving the lead performer the entire platform to tell his story.
The phrase “mi viejo” translates literally to “my old man”, and “viejo” is a common term of endearment in the Spanish language towards one’s father. In this case, Piero recalls the way it feels to watch his own father grow old seemingly before his eyes. At the start of the song, he looks at him through an outsider’s point-of-view, interpreting him as a sad, lonely person who has become weary from all his years of experience (“Tiene la tristeza larga de tanto venir andando”). In the second verse, he acknowledges that they are both so different from each other (“Somos tan distintos”), which may explain why he sees his father from such a disillusioned standpoint. Having come of age in the turbulent 60s, his struggle to see eye-to-eye with him comes from their origins being miles apart in nature.
The rest of the song pretty much details all the ways that Piero views his father struggling to keep up with his years (“Ahora ya caminas lento”, “Mi padre [tiene] los años viejos”, “el dolor lo lleva dentro”). However, the chorus features a line that seems to be Piero’s willingness to compromise his mixed feelings for him: “Yo soy tu sangre mi viejo; soy tu silencio y tu tiempo”. This seems to translate somewhat literally to, “I am your blood, my father; I am your silence and your time”. The first part of that phrase indicates that, even though he sees his father as so very different than himself, he does carry a part of him by virtue of being his son and they may not really be so different. The second part is a little more difficult to parse, but he could be saying that his mere existence as his son fills in all the empty gaps in his life if he were to ever feel that his lengthy life had no meaning. As his son, he gives his father meaning by mere virtue of passing on his name and legacy after he is gone. He will be his “time” when time has ceased for him eternally.
I’ve never known of this song at all before today, and I am so glad I stumbled upon it. It is one of the more beautiful folk songs I have come upon recently and it comes across as the type of song that would be considered a genre standard, covered by countless artists across numerous countries. In any case, it’s a beautiful piece of personal poetry set to music that fits it gorgeously. I guess from now on, I should start paying attention to the South American folk scene of the 60s.