Joey “Pepe” Smith will be laid to rest at 3 p.m. today, Feb. 3, after a five-day wake at Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque.
When the 71-year-old King of Pinoy Rock died of cardiac arrest Jan. 28, members of three families he left behind were initially worried about funeral and burial costs.
Smith was not financially secure at the time of his death, but, just like in his roller-coaster ride of a career, help came shortly.
A fundraising campaign was launched on the website gogetfunding.com, and it didn’t take long before the target amount of P300,000 was completed. Red Horse Beer, the brand Smith had endorsed for years, pitched in.
Wally Gonzalez, who with Mike Hanopol and Smith, comprised the pioneering Pinoy Rock trio Juan dela Cruz Band, estimated Smith must’ve earned at least P30 million from his past Red Horse sponsorship deal. But apparently he didn’t save some of it, or worse, he didn’t see all the money.
He was too generous, “masyadong mabait,” Wally said.
If it’s an insinuation that Smith was a spendthrift at the peak of his successful comeback, after struggling to regain his rock-star status following his release from jail in 1994, there’s also proof that people felt responsible, if not obliged, to make life easy for him.
Smith had been a working musician since his teens. By 1966, he was famous as the drummer and, later, frontman of The Downbeats.
Almost down and out
But in 1994, he was almost down and out, having spent 19 months in jail on drug charges. He could’ve rotted in the slammer, were it not for auspicious timing—the owners of the then newly opened ’70s Bistro wanted him for a big concert at Luneta.
I was asked to visit him in jail and to get an update on his case, which he said had a good chance of being dismissed, but unfortunately his lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office died.
One of his well-meaning friends, Apa Ongpin, exerted efforts to have him freed, but it took lawyer Wijohn Reyes of ’70s Bistro to take over and argue Smith’s case, which led to his acquittal.
As it happened, I was also designated to fetch Smith from jail and bring him later in the evening to ’70s Bistro for a celebration. While treating him to merienda of Pancit Malabon in my sister’s eatery, I found myself telling Smith, then 47, that he was not getting younger; however, he could still make music, and that I would help by working as his manager (with Arthur Pimentel).
Those were damn difficult years, although Smith’s first comeback gig, held at Club Dredd, drew a full-house crowd that earned him and his band a princely sum.
Managing Smith meant abono, drawing cash from my own pocket or accumulating a listahan ng utang from my sis’ restaurant, where his kids would get their meals.
But many friends attended to Smith’s needs—dentists, surgeons, eye doctors, and a former manager who facilitated a one-time cash sponsorship of P500,000.
After my stint, Smith had around five more managers, the most financially rewarding being the one who handled the Red Horse Beer endorsement, which Gonzalez said lasted 10 years.
But even as Smith suffered painful setbacks in the last few months of his life, he was happy that his children had grown up fine and found gainful employment, some abroad.
The eldest, Queenie, Smith’s daughter from a past relationship with Gigi Laguyan, flew in from Myanmar where she’s a special education teacher.
Delta and Desiderata, two daughters Smith had with Rose Acuña, and now both living in Australia, also came home for the wake.
Curiously, Smith had sired another daughter, a Japanese, who’s now a scientist, said one of Smith’s musician friends.
In the late ’70s, Ricky de Ungria, then writing for Jingle music magazine, asked Smith what he wished to be remembered for. “Basta ni-rakenrol ko ang Pilipinas,” he quipped.
Last week, fans and friends flooded Facebook with recollections and affirmations of Smith’s lasting legacy. Many of them had fond memories of chance encounters and good times with him, accompanied by photos of each of them with Smith.
But while most fans measure Smith’s musical influence via three Juan dela Cruz studio albums (1973’s “Himig Natin,” 1974’s “Maskara” and 1981’s “Kahit Anong Mangyari”) and two solo songs (“Summer Wind” and “Sa ’Yo”), they should also listen to his last recorded work, “Idiosyncracies,” a 12-track CD he did with longtime collaborator, guitarist Jun Lopito and bassist Dondi Ledesma, who also produced the sessions in his then home studio in Pasay.
The album encountered problems with the record label that released it, but is available via streaming on Spotify.