In an August 2016 message to fellow songwriter Aaron Paul, Daniel “Danny” Javier said: “It’s not important to me that my name or my work is glorified or remembered…. I hope to go quietly into the night without the trappings of arrogance that fame brings to the frail human ego.”
Javier, who passed away at 75 on Oct. 31, did not exactly get his wish of fading “quietly into the night.”
Instead, his death has triggered a massive outpouring of grief all over social media from his family, his wide circle of friends, colleagues in the music and entertainment industry, and fans across generations whose lives were touched by the music of the iconic Apo Hiking Society.
Particularly hit hard by the passing of Javier—aside from lifelong friends Jim Paredes and Boboy Garrovillo with whom he performed shoulder to shoulder for some 40 years as the Apo Hiking Society—are other musicians whose lives he also changed because of his songs.
“It’s like a part of my history has died, too,” lamented Gary Valenciano, who credits Javier’s “Di Na Natuto,” about a lover who can’t seem to move on from a relationship fraught with pain and uncertainty, for putting him on the map of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and catapulting his career to levels that brought him much closer to the masses.
“Danny once came up to me believing that this one particular song would do wonders for my career. I was fairly new in the music industry and I knew nothing about songs that would tickle a young audience’s heart. He knew,” Valenciano told the Inquirer.
“It ended up becoming my first Tagalog recording,” Valenciano said of that song, now a pop classic, which first appeared in his seminal 1987 album “Moving Thoughts.”
“‘Di Na Natuto,’” he said, “became such a big hit that it remains one of the songs that I hear people requesting during my live concerts today.”
‘Story of my life’
Javier penned that composition specifically for Valenciano. It is also the one song that the composer himself usually performs during the rare times he reluctantly gives in to requests to pick up the microphone.
“It’s a lovely song and I love to sing it. It’s the story of my life,” Javier had said.
The songwriter may not have known it, but Valenciano said “Di Na Natuto” has become a firm part of his own life, too, for which he is profoundly grateful.
“Thank you, Danny. You were always fully aware of how much that song impacted my career. But you will never know how much your contribution and belief in what I could do with it has impacted my life,” Valenciano said.
He added: “Saying ‘thank you’ is not enough but I think I can perfectly reflect what many of us have felt for you, for all the ways you and the Apo Hiking Society moved us all. I love you my ka-birthday friend. I’m glad you have found rest in His peace.”
‘Crisp and clear tone’
Sharing the same sentiment is Jaime Garchitorena, who had the “greatest privilege” to interpret Javier’s “Just A Smile Away” in 1990.
“What was designed to be a jingle became a radio hit,” the former singer and model said, remembering how that song made him a full-fledged recording artist—although he had long since traded in his entertainment career for one in the financial sector.
“Years later, I would bump into Danny again and he proposed doing a remake. Unfortunately, that never materialized,” Garchitorena said.
“After the initial version of [the] song, I think two other artists remade [it]. But it’s nice to note that every Valentine’s Day, I’m told that the original version, the one Danny and I worked on, still makes it to the top 10. I’m forever grateful,” he added.
Also grateful for Javier’s support early in his career is composer and musical director Louie Ocampo, who wrote his first entry to the Metro Manila Popular Music Festival in 1979, when he was just 19 years old.
The annual festival was then on its second year. “Ewan,” which Ocampo wrote together with renowned classical pianist Rowena Arrieta, was interpreted by the Apo Hiking Society and won second place behind Snaffu Rigor’s “Bulag, Pipi at Bingi.”
“At that time, I was a newbie in the industry when I chose the Apo to sing my composition. I remember Danny cracking a few jokes right before it was our turn to perform onstage. I guess that was his way to make me relax and just have fun. When it was Danny’s turn to sing his lines, his voice just cut through with a crisp and clear tone,” said Ocampo, who, as one of the country’s most sought after musical directors later on, would go on concert tours with the trio.
“On and off stage, Danny was a cool guy and always on top of his game, whether it be music, business or his golf game,” Ocampo said.
Javier’s love of golf adds to the ties that have bound him and the rest of the Apo Hiking Society with former Senate President Tito Sotto and fellow Eat Bulaga! hosts Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon, since they all got their start on television in 1972.
They were together on the musical gag show “Okay Lang” on TV 13 (now IBC 13) for two years until 1974.
“[Danny] was very good both as a songwriter and as a singer,” said Tito, who kept in touch with Javier long after their show had ended.
De Leon took to Instagram to pay tribute to Javier, with whom he played poker together with Garrovillo, Tito and Vic.
“As they say in poker, you’re out, Danny. Till next deal, pare!” went De Leon’s post in Taglish.
He remembered how “Okay Lang” eventually led to the formation of Tito, Vic & Joey (TVJ) as a music-comedy group, which rivaled the Apo Hiking Society.
That “healthy competition,” as Tito described the Apo Hiking-TVJ dynamic, extended to the recording scene—with Tito heading production at Vicor Records while Paredes and Javier had day jobs at rival JEM Records—and helped make the 1970s and 1980s the heyday of OPM.
As his colleagues in the music industry have pointed out in the wake of his passing, Javier coined “OPM” initially to market JEM artists such as Hajji Alejandro and Florante.
But that term has since come to represent the entirety and diversity of contemporary Filipino popular music.
‘Poke at life’
The San Diego-based Aaron Paul, whose compositions include “Nandito Ako,” “Pagkakataon” and “Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin,” considers himself lucky that he was able to tell Javier, before he died, how much of an impact he made on the young songwriter when he was first starting out in the 1980s.
Based on the spontaneous outpouring of tributes, Javier had indeed lived a significant life.
Musical director Mel Villena, a frequent collaborator of Javier, remembers him as a “kind of consummate writer/performer/person who loved to poke at life, unabashedly, with all its ups and downs, then [went] on to share it in a most endearing and a lot of times amusingly lovable way.”
As he is brought to his final resting place, surrounded by his closest friends and family, Javier can be at peace knowing that he had made good use of his God-given talents as a singer, songwriter, actor, television host and businessman.
As he concluded in the same 2016 message to Aaron Paul: “My Lord has enabled everything I have done and I am just quietly content to be His instrument. I am forever grateful for His blessings.”
Danny Javier of Apo Hiking Society dies at age 75
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