You might be wondering: Just what the hell have the Beatles got to do with Willy Chirino?
Admittedly, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a far cry from "Oxigeno" and "Sexy Sadie" is worlds removed from "Soy Guajiro." But make no mistake, whether or not you recognize the Fab Four's fingerprint on the Grammy-winning Cuban music icon's tropical hits, he credits them as a major source of inspiration.
"Their music has always been my greatest source of inspiration," Chirino says. "More than any other artist or group, even more than the great singers and bands from my childhood back in Cuba."
Which is why the long-time Miamian recently decided to go back to his roots and pay homage -- not to Perez Prado, Benny Moré, or the other legends of his native Cuba -- but to the British rock band that moved him as a teenager.
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My Beatles Heart is both wholly unexpected (unless you regularly picture Lennon shaking maracas and Ringo beating congas), and just what you might expect from Willy Chirino covering the Beatles. "Across the Universe" fuses psychedelic sitar strings with a gentle tropical shuffle. "Blackbird" opens much like the original before those recognizable arpeggios usher in a rhythmic sway, led by gentle congas and an understated but undeniable salsa-style piano. Even "Helter Skelter," the album's most rock-centric moment, makes use of Chirino's tropical underpinnings.
Overall, Willy Chirino's My Beatles Heart is an interesting foray into the inspiration that helped form the musical foundation of an artist of a very different mettle from his heroes. And he does them justice in giving their beloved hits a whole new spin, complete with horns.
Willy Chirino. Saturday, September 10. Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The concert begins at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $52.15 to $164.50 via arshtcenter.org