World News

Vicente Fernandez, a 'Sinatra' to Mexican fans, dies at 81

(AFP)

Mexico is in mourning: The revered “king of ranchera music” Vicente Fernandez, winner of nearly a dozen Grammys, died Sunday at 81.

The crooner, famed for his wide sombreros and for romantic songs that animated countless fiestas and provided balm for generations of Latin America’s brokenhearted, died in a hospital in Guadalajara, his family said in a post on Instagram.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador posted a message of condolence on Twitter for the “family, friends and the millions of admirers of Vicente Fernandez, a symbol of the ranchera music of our time, known and recognized in Mexico and abroad.” 

Fernandez had been hospitalized since falling in August in his ranch near Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state and a cradle of mariachi music.

In a 50-year career, “Chente,” the son of a rancher, had sold millions of albums. He also appeared in dozens of movies.

He was the undisputed master of “rancheras” — the tormented love songs belted out to a backdrop of multiple guitars and swelling trumpets.

Known for such sentimental and macho hits as “Por tu maldito amor” (“For your accursed love”) and the bittersweet “Que te vaya bonito” (“I wish you the best”), he collected three Grammy awards and nine Latin Grammys.

Fernandez’s life saw both the best and worst of Mexico, the refined and the cruelly violent. The worst moment for “Chente” — who was also known as “The Idol of Mexico” — came during a 1998 tour when his son Vicente Fernandez Jr. was abducted and held for 121 days against a ransom demand of $10 million.

To prove they were serious, the kidnappers cut off two of the young man’s fingers.

According to an unauthorized biography by Argentine journalist Olga Wornat, another of Fernandez’s sons was the friend of a Sinaloa drug cartel boss.

With his trademark sombreros, thick eyebrows and dark moustache, the “Sinatra of ranchera music” — as the Houston Chronicle dubbed him — cut an unmistakable path in a career that began on street corners working for tips.

There was controversy as well.

In her book “El Ultimo Rey” (“The Last King”), Wornat says Fernandez was the bitter enemy of a rival singer, Juan Gabriel, “because he was gay and ‘Chente’ was a man from another era.” Gabriel died in 2016.

Fernandez had also been accused of touching women without their consent while posing with them. He denied doing anything inappropriate.

Fernandez’s death fell on the feast day of the virgin of Guadalupe, the country’s patron saint — and a source of inspiration for mariachi orchestras. 

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