Alejandro Escovedo's career defies easy definition. He was the leader of a punk band that opened for the Sex Pistols, but his latest album, "The Crossing," was recorded with an Italian band in Rome. It's an apt title for a man whose life has had many crossings of its own.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Escovedo grew up in a family of musicians, including his older brothers Coke and Pete, who played with Santana. Pete's daughter, Sheila E., played with Prince.
"Out of the 12 children, there's eight professional musicians. ... So music was always just a part of our thing, you know," Escovedo told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Anthony Mason.
But the music business often didn't know what to make of him.
"Radio programmers would say, 'We already have one Mexican band, we don't need another one.' That was Los Lobos at the time. One radio programmer said, 'We can't even pronounce his name. How do you expect us to play his music?'" Escovedo recalled. "You just fight harder, I think. I just got deeper into my music and I knew that I had something to say."
He said it with the San Francisco punk band The Nuns, who opened the Sex Pistols final show in 1978. In the 80s he moved to Austin, Texas, joined the band Rank and File and then formed the True Believers before launching his solo career in the 90s, when No Depression magazine proclaimed Escovedo "the artist of the decade."
Later on in the 90s, he learned he had Hepatitis C and in 2003, collapsed on stage. He had to be rushed to an emergency room.
"They found I was bleeding internally in three different places…in the beginning it was devastating. I was in deep depression."
Escovedo put his guitar down for a couple years after the incident.
"You know why did all my friends who, we all did the same thing, but yet I was the one that was chosen to carry this, right? And so there was a point I kind of blamed the music for where I was," he said.
A group of fellow artists rallied behind him, including Lucinda Williams and recorded the album "Por Vida," a tribute to the songs of Alejandro Escovedo.
"That was the medicine that started to bring me back out of the depths of that darkness," he said. "This was a real affirmation of all those, that work that we had done and it suddenly dawned on me what kind of effect we had on people."
It was what brought him back to music.
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