Borderline Latin: David Lee Roth, Eat 'Em and Fail

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

Not every experiment in borderline Latin music is great. Some attempts fail miserably. Trying to be funny is one of the possible ways to go wrong here, but taking things too seriously is not very recommendable either. Sometimes a little humor actually helps, like when Roger Waters sang “Las Mañanitas” in Mexico City. I wonder if he was aware he was stealing this act from a couple of clowns from Monterrey –when I say clowns I mean it literally: two clowns from one of Monterrey’s local TV networks had done this before. But I digress.

Driven by an ardent desire to tap into the growing Mexican American market, David Lee Roth decided to record a full Spanish version of his 1986 album Eat ‘Em and Smile. The English version was an ’80s success, and marked David Lee Roth’s departure from Van Halen. But the Spanish version called Sonrisa Salvaje was way less fortunate: it tanked. You be the judge: listen to “Soy Fácil,” the Spanish version of his song “I’m Easy.” Roth enjoyed a commercially successful career during the second half of the 1980s; after that, it went the way of the hair band and the aerosol.

To be fair, the man is still around. Nowadays, after getting back together with his old band to record an album, David spends his time hosting his own video webcast called The Roth Show, available on iTunes and his Youtube Channel. His interest in different cultures apparently continues, and he says he has a Spanish teacher called María, a Boricua from New York City. I haven’t watched every episode of it, but I get the feeling he doesn’t talk much about Sonrisa Salvaje. You’re a brave entrepreneur, David: we give you that.

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Click HERE to read more “Borderline Latin” profiles. For comments and tips, please contact me at:, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.