The curtain has fallen as the “Total Entertainer” takes a bow.
Rico J. Puno is definitely an OPM legend beyond compare, with his deeply felt, soulful renditions of originals and covers that are truly unforgettable through the years.
“Rico J” as fondly called with that signature line, “Baby, Baby, Baby…” started in small club gigs around the Metro in the late sixties to the early seventies. But what really made his mark was his impressive, unique singing voice that is comparable to America’s soul greats.
Vicor music producers noticed his talent as Rico J wowed the audience in a guest appearance at a Manila concert of Motown greats The Temptations. They signed him up immediately and made him record a cover of Major Harris’s “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.”
But it was another cover that made him a pop star. It was his rendition of the Barbara Streisand hit “The Way We Were” that made his distinctive voice known to all.
He would then record several hit songs through the seventies, the time when OPM dominated the local music scene in radio play and record sales. Rico J’s songs pushed the envelope in making OPM a beloved Filipino artistic treasure.
Most especially, Rico J captured our hearts with his memorable tunes.
Such songs as “Kapalaran,” “May Bukas Pa,” “Ang Tao’y Marupok,” “Lupa,” and “Ang Diyos Ang Pag-Ibig” are Rico J’s string of inspirational songs that truly hit our core, and heartwarming love songs like “Buhat” “Together Forever” and “Magkasuyo Buong Gabi,” with Hong Kong superstar Elisa Chan leaving us smitten. His more recent covers of the Eraserheads’ “Ang Huling El Bimbo” and Gary Granada’s “Mabuti Pa Sila” were likewise unforgettable. But of course, who could forget his own personal anthem, “Macho Gwapito,” which put forth his trademark vibe.
What makes Rico J even more memorable is his charismatic, boisterous, raucous, and sometimes raunchy stage presence that delight the audience.
In fact, his concerts are very much well-attended from his launching gig “Rico in Concert” at the Folk Arts Theatre to the more recent throwback “Greatest Hits” shows all over the world. He was considered a music sensation in the early years of his career that he needed to represent the country in the Tokyo Music Festival in 1979, and even became one of the first celebrity endorsers of a leading beer brand.
He is charming as he is hilarious.
Rico J would then invade the silver screen with a series of comedy films that clicked in the tills, aside from occasional dramas.
But his more memorable stints out of the music scene were on television, with a breakout musical show Rico Baby on the defunct BBC-2 in the seventies. His most prominent shows were on ABS-CBN, appearing on such programs as Home Sweetie Home, Lorenzo’s Time, Little Champ, and his stints as a noontime show host for Happy Yipee Yehey and Pilipinas Win na Win. His most recent appearances were on FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano and on It’s Showtime, wherein he is among the hurados of Tawag Ng Tanghalan.
Indeed, Rico J. Puno is the pioneering OPM icon and incredible award-winning entertainer who will forever be missed.