Music icon

Mexican music icon dies at 81 – Billboard

Vicente Fernández, the towering icon of Mexican ranchera music whose powerful voice defined the lives of generations of fans across Latin America, died Sunday morning (December 12) in a hospital in Guadalajara, his family confirms.

The cause was complications following surgery for a cervical spine injury after a bad fall last August. Fernández had remained hospitalized since then in stable but serious condition. In the past 24 hours, his condition has deteriorated, according to official posts from his medical team on his official Instagram account. He was 81 years old.

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Instantly recognizable by his elegant charro outfits and hat, bold mustache and dazzling smile, Fernández was only six feet tall but had the stature and looks of a giant. His concerts have entered into legend, continuing for hours at the whim of the public. Always accompanied by his mariachi, Fernández was the ultimate musical companion, bringing grown men to tears with his stories of broken hearts and causing women to throw themselves (or their underwear) at him on stage, even as a septuagenarian.

Fernández’s death is not just a death. It is also the end of an era of extraordinary Mexican music and legendary performers and composers – Javier Solís, Pedro Infante, Antonio Aguilar, José Alfredo Jiménez, Jorge Negrete – of which Fernández was the youngest.

On the charts, no other voice from the traditional Mexican has been as successful or as recognizable. A relentless touring and recording artist, Fernández has an output of over 50 albums and sits at No. 5 on Billboard‘s Greatest Latin Artists of All Time Chart and placed 15 albums, including six No. 1s, in the top 10 of Billboard‘s top Latin albums, more than any other Mexican regional group. He placed 61 songs on Billboardthe chart of hot latin songs from ,
including 20 top 10s.

When it comes to touring, Fernández was relentless. As recently as 2014, it landed at No. 2 on BillboardThe weekly tour tally is $7.3 million in sales for 12 sold-out concerts at the Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City. Her 2014 series of shows, which included US arenas, were meant to be her farewell tour. Fernandez would play his final touring show in 2016 at Azteca Stadium in Mexico.

Fernandez was also an actor who starred in over 30 films, emulating the career of his hero Pedro Infante.

Beyond chart success, however, Fernández was Mexican music.

“Mi’ja, I always said it”, he said Billboard in an interview at his legendary Guadalajara ranch in 2012. “A singer can sing anything. But me, my life is Mexican music. For me, putting on my charro outfit is a matter of pride and a huge responsibility. The charro outfit goes hand in hand with the personality Vicente Fernández gave it. Without the charro outfit, I don’t feel like myself.

Fernández’s legacy is anchored in the public consciousness throughout Latin America, where he has been indelibly identified with his hit “El Rey”, originally written and recorded by José Alfredo Jiménez, but preserved forever. in Fernández’s voice after recording it in 1991.

Beyond the recordings, there is the family. Fernández is the father of Alejandro Fernández, another towering figure in Mexican music who became the first Mexican music star to carve out an equally successful career in pop. The son of Alejandro Fernández, in turn, recently launched his own singing career. In one of Fernández’s last public presentations, he sang with his son and grandson at the 2019 Latin Grammy Awards in one of the most spectacular and moving performances in the history of the awards, the three men wearing their traditional charro outfits and hats and playing classics like “Volver Volver”.

Even though Fernández’s voice was a prodigious instrument, and even though he could have just as easily sung pop, he never strayed from traditional Mexican music. This was the case, even when he was recording with other artists, which he often did.

“Anyone who comes to sing with me has to sing ranchero,” he said. Billboard. “Roberto Carlos was to sing ranchero, Vicki Carr was to record ranchero. Celia Cruz arrived with a mariachi. I agree to record with everyone, as long as it’s with a marichi.

Vicente “Chente” Fernández was born on February 17, 1940 on a ranch in the town of Huentitán El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico. His father, Ramón Fernández, was a rancher and dreamed that his son would follow in his footsteps. But Fernández fell in love with music, and after getting his first guitar at age 8, he never looked back. He went to see all the Pedro Infante films as a child and, from the age of 6 or 7, told his mother that he wanted to be like that when he grew up.

Ironically, Fernández would eventually become the rancher his father wanted him to be, buying land in Guadalajara in 1980 and gradually expanding it to 20,000 hectares, where he lived until his hospitalization. Named Los Tres Potrillos (The Three Foals), after Fernández’s three sons (Vicente, Alejandro and Gerardo), the ranch has cattle, stables and many farm animals, including his favorite miniature horses, which he bred and bred with such fierce protection that he built a glassed-in room so he could see when foals were born, no matter what time of day or night.

Despite these luxuries, however, Los Tres Potrillos was a working ranch whose rustic feel matched Fernández’s background as the son of a rancher who literally rose from the ground. Fernández’s family was not wealthy and he had no connection to the industry. But his work ethic, which remained intact until his downfall, was well known.

A relentless performer, Fernández honed his skills in bars and canteens, until in 1966, after Javier Solís’ death, Discos CBS – the Mexican subsidiary of CBS Records – signed him with his first recording contract. Fernández, who was famous for his loyalty, remained with the label throughout its transition to become Sony Music. He recorded with them until the day he died. He also remained married to his wife, María del Refugio “Cuca” Abarca Villasenor (whom he called Cuquita) from 1963 until his death.

Despite his brilliant career, Fernández, of course, had setbacks and tragedy. Most notably, his son Vicente Fernandez, Jr., was kidnapped for ransom in 1998 and had two of his fingers cut off while in captivity and mailed to the family.

Fernández is survived by his wife and four children: Vicente Jr., Alejandro, Gerardo and daughter Alejandra Fernandez.