by Marvin Ramírez
After struggling with a series of liver health situations as a result of drinking, the legendary guitarist and musical composer, René Mendieta, better known as “Manito”, gave his soul to the Creator on Aug. 28, 2018. He was 65 years old. He was born in Mangua, Nicaragua on Feb. 6, 1953.
He expired without witnesses, surrounded by those who were his best friends: his musical tools.
“He died alone, surrounded by his guitars and instruments, he was at home, his wife Maxim was working outside,” his daughter, the Nicaraguan writer and poet, Madeline Mendieta, told El Reportero from her place of residence in Nicaragua.
A man full of dreams who even at the end of his life kept that tag to reach the stars with what was his passion: heavy metal rock music.
Rene ‘Manito’ Mendieta had a chance of a lifetime – how he mingled with an unknown Van Halen for three years
He proudly recounted to people about his days – approximately three years – playing with guitarist, songwriter, keyboardist, and producer, Dutch-American Eddie Van Halen, known for being the lead guitarist of the successful band Van Halen, before he reached stardom.
“When I arrived in Los Angeles in 78 … around 83 or 84, he (Manito) was practicing and playing with Eddy when nobody knew him”, confirmed Roberto Martínez Guerrero, former founder of one of the best known Latin rock groups in Nicaragua, Bwana.
It happened that right across the street from Manito’s home and place of practice, Van Halen was also practicing with another group. An agent, who was looking for a guitarist and went to that location to hire Van Halen, heard Manito playing with his band at his house on the other side of street. He went hear Manito’s band, and decided to hire both of them: Manito and Van Halen.
Time showed the destiny of the two rock guitarists: one from Nicaragua and one from Holland parting to different ways over the years. What happened and why, at the end, only God knows. The Nicaraguan guy remained a financially poor musician, while the Dutch guy, became a multimillionaire. But despite of not having reached the same success as his Dutch friend, Manito sticked to his dream and love for rock music, and never gave up at his Los Angeles barrio.
Within his economic limitations, Manito’s creativity never stopped, always sticked faithfully to his genre of music. As the years passed he continued creating original music, which he dreamed of recording it some day, or sell his compositions to other musicians. A recording studio that he was building to fulfil part of his dream, never came to sound, because death surprised him, just two days after seeing his brother Ivan Mendieta, with whom he had big plans.
His brother Iván, a former member of world famous and successful bands such as the Los Solitarios, Los Grillos de Argentina, Los Bondadosos and los Diablos, is looking for a way to recover – among Manito’s belongings – what his brother left behind in music and record it.
“I’m going to try to get it out and offer it to the public, and record it,” he said, to El Reportero, referring to some of Manito’s works, such as the composition, The Last Judgment, among many others songs.
Despite not having reached the same fate as Van Halen, within his economic limitations, his creativity never stopped, as over the years he continued to create original music, which for him would be useful for recording and for other musicians to buy it. A recording studio that he was building to fulfil part of his dream, never came to sound, because death surprised him, just two days after seeing his brother Ivan Mendieta.
“His death has affected me a lot, because I thought to record with him, especially The Last Judgment, a tremendous song especially in these times,” Ivan said.
“They are compositions that nobody has,” said Manito in life, while proudly enhancing the Latin culture in his compositions.
“His death has affected me a lot, because I thought to record with him, especially The Last Judgment, a tremendous song – especially in these times,” Ivan said.
Manito knew about the value of his works
“They are compositions that nobody has,” said Manito when he was still alive, while proudly enhancing the Latin culture in his compositions.
Since he arrived in the US, in 1972, in the wake of the earthquake that destroyed most of the Nicaraguan capital that year, Manito dedicated himself to rock music, unlike his friends and former fellow musicians of the dean rock group, Los Heller’s in Nicaragua – in which he played for nine years. Los Heller’s former members, for reasons of survival, took refuge in Latin music, playing cumbias and rancheras at local night clubs and cabarets. Manito rejected that. He kept his principles, he came to the US to just play rock, was his mantra.
His poet daughter Madeline describes through her poetry below, who was Manito, her father, and how she visualized him.
“I do not play Rock, I’m Rocanrolero (Rocker)”
For Manito, for being irremediably my father.
that appeases the shadows
In sharp re,
purple note breaks spectrum
your diminished figure
with wetted longhair.
Manito, as a child the soul remained intact
that afternoon of a rugged park
challenging all science
you infringe the guitar
with syncope arrhythmia
screeching sharp notes
infernal rock star, seventies hippie.
Rolling stone, of lustrous acoustics
Rolling and Rolling like Heller’s stones!
Rock acid, legendary soloist
performer hammered solos
with your fierce index
the ropes exhaled fire.
Rough gender, rebellion causes
uppercase exponent of Hendrix,
Zeppelin and Morrison
Tadpole, nobody beats you.
In your way, “knock, knock, the heaven doors”
You will expire with the pants
and leather boots.
Mumbling your anarchist emblem
“I do not play Rock, I’m Rocanrollero”
René Mendieta is survived by his children: Madeline Mendieta, René Mendieta, Natasha Youngwolfe Mendieta, Rachel Mendieta, Nicole Mendieta, Max Mendieta.
His brothers and sisters: Indiana, Sandra, Edwin, Mario Danilo, e Ivan Mendieta; and six nephews and nieces.
The staff of El Reportero, especially its editor Marvin Ramírez, give their sincere condolences and join in the pain of the grieving family.