Rico J. Puno: The Facets and Fame of Mr. Macho Guapito

Evolution: a concept, principle or state of being that allows one to survive the changing times. And each one who embraced it with an open mind and a willing heart always has a unique story to tell…

“I was young then. It was a cold night in 1972 right after Martial Law was declared when I first caught a glimpse of the limelight. It felt good and I wanted more of it. Strapped with my trusty guitar, faded jeans and a big dream, I climbed the stage and sang my heart away. There was no turning back from that moment. I knew exactly where I wanted to be.”

In the 1970s, amidst the days of hippies, student activism and the disco fever, a young man’s music career was being formed at a most obscure time. He would sing in campuses, restaurants, small bars, bistros, unheard-of music joints and mostly whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself. Thinking somehow, that distinct soulful raspy singing voice of his would take him places.

And he was right all along.

Meet Rico J. Puno. Fondly known as the sassy crooner who paved the way for Philippine pop music to progress in the 70s, he became an astounding success with signature hits such as Love Won’t Let Me Wait and Alaala, the legendary Tagalog version of Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were.

Rico J. is blessed with the most flattering titles, one for each generation of his abounding career in music. His first was “Most Promising Entertainer of The Year”, a product of hard work and dedication of an aspiring juvenile artist who was evolving into a macho pop star.

Anecdotes of crazed fans who stormed the stores in a frenzy to buy his 45” single, screaming women who tugged and pulled his shirt during concerts and other outrageous yet heartwarming stories are more than enough to fill a lifetime of good memories. As Rico’s songs were quickly becoming favorites in sing-along venues, he was baptized with a new title. He was then hailed “Jukebox King”. But that was just the beginning of an uncharted journey to greater depths and a brighter spotlight in the entertainment world.

Surpassing one milestone after another, Rico J.’s career took a turn in the mid-80s when People Power was in progress. As the nation cried for change and patriotic songs took over the airwaves, he records several inspiring songs such as Where Did Our Love Go and Together Forever. The desire to grow as an entertainer was now his new mission- vision. Maturity was turning him from pop idol to artist. It was time to evolve once again.

While keeping a low-profile, his suave style found new life within a new audience. Entering the world of solo entertainment, his appeal extended from the masses to the society of politicians, businessmen and the like. He became a must-see class-act that delighted audiences in hotel lounges and clubs with his wit, naughty humor and, of course, good music. And after several years of bringing entertainment, Rico J. earns what is perhaps the most prestigious title any entertainer fancies. He was now “The Total Performer”.

Another radical evolution took place for Rico in the 1990s as he embraced a new love– public service, giving him yet another respectable title worthy of being called a servant of the people. He balances two identities: he is Makati councilor by day and artist by night. This diverse mix worked perfectly for him the last few years.

Fast-forward to the new millennium…The family man, public servant, artist and entertainer is drawn back to the recording scene upon the idea that Eraserheads frontman Ely Buendia will be producing his comeback album. Though this idea never materialized, Rico J. together with BMG employed the genius of Bodjie Dasig to continue this venture.

With a fresh and innovative approach to music, they create new songs that demonstrate a truly high-quality album recording. Original compositions by top writers, producers and arrangers such as Vehnee Saturno, Nonoy Tan and Bodjie Dasig himself were assembled to come up with Rico J.’s best work to date.

He brings us Aliw, the apt title of his comeback album of which the first single is a naughty song called Kay Hirap Mong Limutin penned by folk-pop singer Lito Camo. Though now is a different time and a new generation to be pleased exists, loyal fans can still expect an exemplary display of Rico J.’s suave and soulful singing style that made him a recording superstar back then.

Looking forward, Rico J., blessed with the pleasure of enjoying a life well-spent in many dimensions, is still fulfilling his dreams by exhibiting excellence in entertainment and politics. Having basked in the limelight for many years, one might ask: What is the secret to his success in music?

He says, “It is the man who makes the song. And as long as there are opportunities to grow as an artist and there are audiences to be entertained…

…Rico J. will always be that man.”

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