MEXICO CITY (AP) – With his powerful voice Vicente Fernández immortalized songs like “El rey”, “Volver, Volver” and “Pity that you are alien” and positioned himself as one of the maximum representatives of ranchera music and mariachi, selling more than 50 million records and inspiring new generations of performers like his son Alejandro Fernández Jr.
The star of regional Mexican music, also known as “Chente”, “El rey” and “El charro de Huentitán”, passed away at dawn on Sunday at the age of 81, leaving a legacy of classics that also include “Mujeres divinas”, “ Here between us ”,“ These jealousies ”and“ The law of the mountain ”.
He was awarded three Grammys and nine Latin Grammys, the most recent for best ranchera / mariachi music album for “A mis 80’s” last November. In 2002, the Latin Recording Academy honored him as Person of the Year. His mark as a standard-bearer of traditional popular music is indelible, while in the cinema he appeared in more than 30 films.
Fernández suffered a serious fall in August for which he needed to be hospitalized and later connected to a respirator. From there, his physical ailments increased and he was unable to recover.
In his later years he had a whole series of health conditions. In 2021 he was hospitalized for a kidney infection and a fall on his ranch in which he injured his neck. In 2012, he underwent a complex surgery in which almost half of his liver was removed due to a tumor, and a year later he had a pulmonary thrombosis. In March 2015, three hernias formed during the recovery process from liver surgery were operated on.
A year later, he said goodbye to the stage with the concert “Un azteca en el Azteca”, in a crowded Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, before about 85,000 spectators who traveled from northern Mexico as well as the United States, Colombia and other Latin American countries for this historic presentation, many of them wearing hats, standing up to chant “Chente, Chente!”. In total, Fernández performed more than 50 songs at that concert with an enviable voice, ensuring that he would continue singing if he received what he most adored from the public: the applause. With that show, he surpassed his own mark of more than 54,000 attendees imposed at a 1984 concert in the Plaza de Toros México.
“There is one thing that cannot be bought even with all the gold in the world and that you have always given me without having to put a gun to their heads,” he said at the beginning of the presentation. “His presence, his affection, his respect and his applause.”
The CD / DVD recorded during the concert, “Un azteca en el Azteca, Vol. 1 (en vivo)”, earned him his third Grammy for best regional Mexican music album in 2017. The first two were obtained for “Mano a mano – Tangos in the way of Vicente Fernández “(2014) and” Need for you “(2009).
Vicente Fernández Gómez was born on February 17, 1940 in the town of Huentitán El Alto in the western state of Jalisco. He spent most of his childhood on the ranch of his father, Ramón Fernández, on the outskirts of Guadalajara. He used to say that the dream of being an artist came true thanks to the support of his mother, Paula Gómez de Fernández, who was a housewife and encouraged him to learn folk music as well as taking him a lot to the cinema to see films from the Golden Age of the Mexican cinema when he dreamed of being like Pedro Infante.
At the age of 14, he won an amateur contest on a television station in Guadalajara. Since then he began to appear in bars and restaurants. Fame came to him in 1966, when after the death of Javier Solís, another great of regional music, the company CBS México (today Sony Music) hired him and recorded “Perdóname” and “Palabra del Rey”, his first hits.
In the 1970s he made his film debut with the film “Tacos al Carbon” and scored a hit with “La Ley del Monte” from 1976, whose soundtrack, also performed by Fernández, was equally popular, including the song of the same name that it became one of his most characteristic themes.
“All the films I made were made from the heart, two months before I knew the arguments and I knew the dialogues of myself and all my colleagues,” said Fernández during his farewell concert at the Azteca Stadium.
In 1976, the song “Volver, Volver” cemented his position as a star of the genre and broke international sales records. Over the next two decades, Fernández received awards that included several keys to the city in the United States. He also conquered the other side of the Atlantic, with successful presentations in Madrid.
He came to share the stage with Plácido Domingo and Vikki Carr, while in 2012 he recorded a song as a duet with Tony Bennett, who in an interview with The Associated Press said that Fernández was “his favorite” and that they had shared extensively at his ranch in Mexico. “He had a wonderful recording studio and we recorded the song right there,” Bennett said of the song “Return To Me,” included on his album “Viva Duets.”
In 2015, a supposed rivalry between Fernández and Juan Gabriel came to an end when “El Divo de Juárez” included a version of “La difference” with Chente on his album “Los duo”. He also had a good relationship with Joan Sebastian, “El rey del jaripeo”, who produced his 2007 album “Para siempre”. Fernández also composed songs such as “Despite whoever weighs him”.
Always wearing a charro de gala outfit, he was known for his presentations at the traditional fairgrounds, where he lasted up to four hours. But in 2012 he made a surprise announcement: he was retiring from the stage. The decision was made at a press conference, when a journalist asked him if he had thought about retiring. “I had not thought about it, someone asked me,” he told the Televisa network. “That’s how I am … that’s how I retired from the cinema.”
“I am of a single word and when I say I am retiring, I am retiring,” he told reporters at his ranch.
However, he remained active in the study. He recorded duets with some singers, such as the Mexican Edith Márquez, and released the albums “Mano a mano – Tangos in the way of Vicente Fernández”, “Los 2 Vicentes” with his son Vicente Fernández Jr., and in 2020 “A mis 80’s ”To celebrate its 80 years. He also lent his voice to support then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and encourage Latino voters to participate in the 2016 election with “El Corrido de Hillary Clinton.”
Fernández was married to María del Refugio Abarca Villaseñor, with whom he procreated Vicente Jr., Gerardo and Alejandro, in addition to adopting their only daughter, Alejandra. Alejandro Fernández eventually became a regional Mexican music star, a talent that spread to his children Alex and Camila Fernández.
“Thank you Dad for this great legacy that you have left us,” said Alejandro Fernández at the farewell at the Azteca Stadium. “I swear to you that I will never let Mexican music die … and I will continue to carry it around the world.”
In November 2013, Fernández published the book “But I am still the king”, in which he collected anecdotes from his career, as well as unpublished images. “I’ve always said it, if I make a book with my life, my wife divorces me,” he commented during his presentation. The proceeds from the book were donated to the Telethon.
He could not avoid, however, being in the eye of the hurricane on several occasions. In 1997 Vicente Jr. was kidnapped and the criminals amputated a pair of fingers. Father and son stated on several occasions that they had forgiven the kidnapper. In 2019 he was criticized for saying in a television interview that years before he rejected a liver transplant for not knowing if the donor was “homosexual or drug addict”, which sparked accusations of homophobia.
In early 2021, Fernández was accused of improperly touching several women during portrait sessions with fans at his ranch, from which photographs and videos showing these incidents were published. One of them, identified as Lex on TikTok, pointed out that she did not notice when he touched her because of the type of bra she was wearing, but added: “I don’t care that he is Vicente Fernández. He shouldn’t have touched my body without my permission. ” None filed a criminal complaint and Fernández said it was an accident in an interview with journalist Mara Patricia Castañeda.
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Fernández leaves an indelible legacy in Mexican music