WIDELY considered as the father of Philippine rock, Joseph William Feliciano Smith — better known as Joey Pepe Smith — passed away Monday morning at the age of 71.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Desiderata Smith-Owen in a Facebook post saying, “Thank you for everything my papa bear. Thank you for being the best dad in the world. I know you’re in the best place now, no more pains papa… I will see you in [a] few days. I love you to the moon and back.”
In a comment on a Facebook post, Ms. Smith-Owen said her father had problems breathing early Monday morning and was rushed to the hospital. As of press time, there are no details about the cause of death or his wake.
Music promoter Dudee Alfonso posted on her Facebook page that the “family still doesn’t know how to proceed” as two daughters are out of the country.
Mr. Smith suffered two strokes in 2017 which affected his singing and speech. He is survived by his five children.
Born on Dec. 25, 1947, Mr. Smith learned how to play drums at the age of nine and went on to put together his first band with friends at the age of 11. A few years later, as the drummer and lead vocalist of the Eddie Reyes and the Downbeats band, Mr. Smith became a rock sensation by imitating Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
The Eddie Reyes and the Downbeats band opened for the Beatles at their infamous July 4, 1966 concert in the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, performing the Rolling Stone’s “Get Off of My Cloud.”
In December 1970, Pepe Smith joined seminal Filipino rock group Juan the dela Cruz band which had Wally Gonzales at the guitar and Mike Hanopol playing bass. The same year, the band played in the Antipolo Rock Festival, an open-field concert similar to the 1969 Woodstock festival in the US.
The following year, the band was tapped to play alongside the Manila Symphony Orchestra for the Philippine production of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
It was in 1973 that the band released its second album, Himig Natin. Its titular single became the band’s anthem and classic rock song said to have rallied Pinoy Rock.
Mr. Smith previously said that he wrote the song backstage in a ladies’ toilet while waiting for his turn to play in a 1972 concert also called Himig Natin in Rizal Park, Manila.
Other hits from the band include “Beep Beep” and “Balong Malalim” from Maskara (1974), “No Touch” and “Titser Enemy No. 1” from Kahit Anong Mangyari (1980).
In 2014, Mr. Smith starred in Jose Lorenzo “Pepe” Diokno’s film Above the Clouds, where he played the grandfather of an aloof teenager (played by Ruru Madrid) who, after having lost his parents to a flood, joins him on a trek through the Mountain Province in order to make sense of their loss.
Mr. Smith also starred in Bradley Liew’s Singing in Graveyards (2016) where he played a washed up musician who built a career impersonating Joey “Pepe” Smith and is angling for a comeback.
After the announcement of his passing, an outpouring of grief via social media ensued, with singer Gary Valenciano posting on his Instagram: “The Philippine music scene would’ve never been the same without you in it. I salute and thank you sir Pepe Smith. You rocked our world.”
“You left us a legacy Pepe Smith. Rock ‘n Roll is not dead because of you… May you rest in peace! Condolence to the family and friends he left behind. Salamat sa musika at sining (Thank you for the music and the art),” said Film Development Council of the Philippines Chairman and CEO Mary Liza Dino-Seguerra in a Facebook post.
Singer/songwriter Nicole Laurel Asensio thanked Mr. Smith on her Facebook page “for being really nice to me always, for being genuine, for giving advice and for encouraging me to sing.”
“Thank you for the music, thank you for the good vibes. Thank you for paving the way for the rest of us ‘misfits’ who just wanna rock and make people feel. You’re a legend,” she added.
Vocalist Chris “Top” Suzara, formerly of the band Freestyle, said the industry lost “one of the greatest ever.”
“With great sadness and deepest gratitude, may you rest in peace, Pepe Smith. You will never be forgotten and you will always be the only King of Pinoy Rock. You WERE Rock ‘N Roll! We all know you’ll be rocking up there in heaven, the greatest stage ever! Thank you for being the beacon of light that you always were,” he said.
“When I grow old, I would brag to younger musicians that I became friends with the person who started it all, the King of Pinoy Rock. Rest well, Pepe. We and a lot of people love you so much! Let’s see each other at the end once the time comes,” Jugs Jugueta of the Itchyworms said in vernacular in an Instagram post.
“Another OPM (Original Pilipino Music) legend bites the dust. With deep sadness, I say farewell Pepe Smith. Gentle travels,” Jaime Ramon “Jim” Paredes of APO Hiking Society said over Twitter. — Zsarlene B. Chua