Video premiere: Latin at Heart leader Billy Wilson, in hospice, says goodbye with a song
“Friends of Latin at Heart, this is going to be my final newsletter and my last song,” Austin musician Billy Wilson wrote in an emotional message to his band’s fans this week, letting them know that he’s in hospice care with prostate cancer.
Wilson went on to explain that he was diagnosed 10 years ago, but medications had held the illness in check until a recent downturn: “In March-April of 2021, I really thought I was on my way out, got a reprieve with proton therapy, but now it’s mid-July and I’m in hospice.”
Wilson formed Latin at Heart around 15 years ago and has played regularly at clubs such at One-2-One Bar and the Saxon Pub since then. Only recently did he venture into the studio, releasing a debut single last year (following a live album sold at shows a few years back).
His latest recording with the band, “We Ran To,” features contributions from Patricia Vonne, Darin Murphy, Jose "Sefo" Barragan, Eddy Hobizol, Nick Montopoli and Einar Pedersen. It was recorded at Arlyn Studios in early 2021. The video includes performance footage from Austin shows in 2019. We're premiering it today on Austin360:
As a last request to fans, "I would love to hear from you on my Facebook page," Wilson added in the newsletter. "If you could post your thoughts and comments on 'We Ran To,' or perhaps a favorite Latin at Heart memory, show moment, a favorite song, really, anything and everything you want to share would make my day!"
Latin at Heart began as a Spanish-language band, a result of Wilson becoming fluent in Spanish during childhood years spent in El Salvador. Wilson showed an affinity for music in his school days; he graduated from John Marshall High School in San Antonio and Abilene Christian University before getting married and working a day job as he and his wife raised a son.
A divorce at age 47 led him to reconnect with his early inclination toward singing and songwriting. Latin at Heart emerged in that period, gradually transforming from a Spanish-language act to songs sung in English with "music influenced by Latin melodies and Latin chord progressions," said friend Gene Chavez (father of Austin music mainstay Gina Chavez). The group "evolved into a rock band featuring violin and electric guitar leads containing lush, orchestral arrangements," Chavez said.
At the end of his newsletter to fans, Wilson wrote: "I wanted to keep going. To keep living this musical dream. There are so many more songs I would like to write, more musical arrangements I would love to dive into, more shows I would like to play. I didn’t tell you about my diagnosis sooner because I wanted to fight it. I wanted to beat it and see you again at a live show! I wanted to continue this beautiful musical journey with you, my friends. But, alas, there are things in life we cannot control. I gave it my best."