Alt.Latino's Sonic Altar: Remembering Those Who've Left Us : Alt.Latino In what's become an annual Día de los Muertos tradition, we play music and personal dedications honoring the departed — from Prince to a listener's abuelito.
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Alt.Latino's Sonic Altar: Remembering Those Who've Left Us

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Alt.Latino's Sonic Altar: Remembering Those Who've Left Us

Alt.Latino's Sonic Altar: Remembering Those Who've Left Us

Alt.Latino's Sonic Altar: Remembering Those Who've Left Us

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/500213388/500373611" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Our Día de los Muertos altar in the Alt.Latino World Headquarters celebrates Prince, David Bowie and many more of the musicians and loved ones we lost this year. Nicole Boliaux/NPR hide caption

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Nicole Boliaux/NPR

Our Día de los Muertos altar in the Alt.Latino World Headquarters celebrates Prince, David Bowie and many more of the musicians and loved ones we lost this year.

Nicole Boliaux/NPR

2016 has been particularly hard on music fans of all stripes.

Of course, we saw the loss of marquee names like Prince and David Bowie this year. But just about each and every slice of the music world has lost a significant artist — and, in some cases, way too soon. There's Juan Gabriel in Latin music, Merle Haggard in country, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire in R&B, Bobby Hutcherson in jazz.

So in our annual sonic altar commemorating Día de los Muertos, we honor some of those musicians and the gifts they've left us in their recorded legacies. And, as usual, we remember our own friends and family members in the form of dedications that some listeners were generous enough to share with us. (This year we also have an actual altar set up in Alt.Latino World Headquarters to accompany the sonic version.)

The Nahuatl people of present-day Mexico believed in a concept of duality: "I am alive. I am dead. In both cases, I am." That's the guiding principle of Día de los Muertos, and it's also what inspires Alt.Latino to honor those that have made their transitions toward the light and eternity.

Hear The Songs

Sun Goddess Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Earth, Wind & Fire feat. Ramsey Lewis

  • Song: Sun Goddess
  • from Sun Goddess

Maurice White was one of the principal architects of the Earth, Wind & Fire sound — a sophisticated blend of lyricism and rhythm. His roots were in jazz, and this track features an early musical influence, jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis.

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The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Seu Jorge

  • Song: Life on Mars?
  • from Life Aquatic Studio Sessions

David Bowie's influence on the entire world is reflected in this touching performance of one of his early iconic works by Brazilian vocalist and guitarist Seu Jorge.

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Song
Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
Album
Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
Artist
Seu Jorge
Label
Hollywood Records
Released
2005

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Cover for Vengo

Ana Tijoux

  • Song: Creo En Ti
  • from Vengo

Alt.Latino listener Rachelle Adams Jackson dedicates this song to her mom, Carol Gabree.

"I chose this song in particular because my mom was both my inspiration and my suffering. I feel like I spent a lot of my life and love for her believing in her more than she was able to believe in herself. I could see the fighter and giver and passion in her. My fights with her and her own personal demons created the optimist, lover, fighter and community creator that I am. I had no other choice, really — and I had to see in the both of us the very best of us in order to not lose hope or the will to create a better life."

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Song
Vengo
Album
Vengo
Artist
Ana Tijoux
Label
Nacional
Released
2014

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Cover for Purple Rain

Prince

  • Song: Purple Rain
  • from Purple Rain

What to choose from Prince's vast catalog? It's hard to go wrong with "Purple Rain."

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Song
Purple Rain
Album
Purple Rain
Artist
Prince & The Revolution
Label
Warner Bros.
Released
2009

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Live at Monterey Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Jimi Hendrix

  • Song: The Wind Cries Mary
  • from Live at Monterey [LP]

From Felix:

Robert Goldstein was the music librarian here at NPR. We also played in the office R&B band together. He loved talking about music and playing music — and he loved Jimi Hendrix. This is for you, Robert.

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Song
Live at Monterey [LP]
Album
Live at Monterey [LP]
Artist
Jimi Hendrix
Label
Geffen
Released
2007

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Courtesy of the artist

Tom Waits

  • Song: I Wish I Was in New Orleans
  • from Small Change

Listener Rachel Thiel dedicates this to her father, Mark Thiel, who passed away March 25, 2016.

"My father is the one who instilled my love and enthusiasm for music in me. He raised me on blues, rock 'n' roll, bluegrass, country, gospel — and the list goes on. We both were always looking for different kinds of music to try out, and have a wide range of tastes.

"The reason I chose 'I Wish I Was In New Orleans' is that it was the last 'new' song he showed me. We were fortunate enough to have a party in his honor shortly before he passed, and we brought out the record player and his record collection. My niece mentioned the Tom Waits album and he said, 'Put on track 4 of side 1.' She did as he said, and I remember him so clearly, sitting on the side of his hospice bed, eyes closed, hands up indicating that he wanted the volume turned up — then Tom's raspy voice longing for New Orleans, my dad's favorite city. I had never heard it before, but it almost sounded like it could have been written by Dad himself. I hope that wherever he is, they're serving red beans and rice."

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Song
Small Change
Album
Small Change
Artist
Tom Waits
Label
Asylum
Released
1976

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Juan Gabriel

  • Song: Así Fue
  • from 40 Aniversarío

The immensely popular Mexican singer, who transcended the trappings of genre, died in August.

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Ramón Ayala

  • Song: Que Casualidad
  • from Amo de la Musica Nortena

From listener Adriana Payan:

"It was my grandma's song. She said it was about her reuniting with my grandpa after she died. She outlived him by 10 years and she battled Alzheimer's for the last few years.

"It was tough because every time she had a moment of clarity she would ask for my grandpa. We saw her relive the realization he passed over and over again.

"This song makes everything better because it reminds me that they're now together and happy and whole."

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Song
Amo de la Musica Nortena
Album
Amo de la Musica Nortena
Artist
Ramon Ayala
Label
Freddie Records
Released
1995

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The Beatles

The Beatles

  • Song: Because
  • from Abbey Road

George Martin, the so-called Fifth Beatle, passed away in March. He produced so many of The Beatles' masterpieces — as well as a 1998 album of covers called In My Life, which includes this version of "Because," featuring violinist Vanessa-Mae.

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Song
Abbey Road
Album
Abbey Road
Artist
The Beatles
Label
Capitol

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