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Nov 19, 2017
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Sadness gripped the local music scene Tuesday night, following reports that rock icon Joey 'Pepe' Smith was rushed to the hospital due to stroke.

It was the third incident in a row for the veteran musician, who was said to have also suffered a stroke earlier in July, which actually left him with a bit of a speech impediment. Of course, we are among many praying for The Hepe to get well and fast, looking forward to the Pepe Smith Rock Festival, which was originally scheduled for yesterday, November 18.

It's been a while since we last saw Pepe perform live and we thought that he'd surely give his all to a show that had his name written all over it. Ah, but that's up in the air now.

Sigh.

We always looked up to Pepe. For us, he's the first-ever real rock icon to have emerged from the scene.

Sure, there were others, who were much more talented (Hanopol) and good-looking (Sampaguita), but none of them could equal Pepe's magnetic presence. Fact is, even the likes of Basti, Ely, or Bamboo could learn a thing or three from the man in terms of congeniality.

Not that he was universally loved.

Pepe had a lot of critics, most of whom hate the fact he is still around. Some accuse Pepe of getting away with so much on so little talent. What they don't realize is that in itself is part of the man's appeal.

He may not be the greatest singer or guitarist or drummer—but just like most of the greatest entertainers (Jagger, Lennon, Dylan), he sure knows how to work his supposed weaknesses by turning them into definite advantages. Just watch some YouTube videos of him and you'll see how easily he can upstage anybody with sheer presence.

We met Pepe a couple of times in the past, at one point being able to share a beer or two with him. We are not that close, but from the few times we hobnobbed, Pepe was exactly who we expected him to be: funny, affable, spontaneous, and witty, too.

Yes, he could be a bit wary at first (we would too if we experienced the same betrayals as he had particularly in the hands of greedy record producers who, to this day, are yet to pay him what he is due), but he could just as easily warm up to strangers.

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The first time we saw him, he was visiting this record company hoping to receive money for work rendered (we won't name the company here). We were just fans in awe, seeing him in the flesh for the first time. We remember him being open and honest with us while he sat patiently waiting to meet the powers that be, even candidly saying, "Matagal tagal na rin akong hindi pumupunta rito, baka malaki na..."

It wasn't, of course, but he still looked happy enough walking away from the place. At the time, we thought, now that's the real Lebowski right there. With Pepe, it seems life is just but one big laugh.

A few years later, we would meet Pepe again, this time, after escaping a car crash, which also killed a mutual musician friend. "Wala," he said, when we asked how he felt about being able to survive a near-death experience. "Ayaw yata nila sa akin doon."

Well, to that we say, stay Pepe. If they don't like you up there, don't push it.

We'd rather have you here with us.

 

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