MEXICO CITY — Vicente Fernández, an iconic and beloved singer of regional Mexican music who was awarded three Grammys and nine Latin Grammys and inspired a new generation of performers, including his son Alejandro Fernández, died on Sunday. He was 81.
Fernández was known for hits such as “El Rey,” and “Lástima que seas ajena,” his command of the ranchera genre and his dark and elegant mariachi suits with their matching wide-brimmed sombreros.
His music attracted fans far beyond Mexico’s borders. Songs like “Volver, Volver” and “Como Mexico no hay dos” were extremely popular among Mexican immigrant communities in the U.S. because of how they expressed the longing for the homeland.
“It was an honor and a great pride to share with everyone a great musical career and give everything for the audience,” Fernández’s family said on his official Instagram account. “Thank you for continuing to applaud, thank you for continuing to sing.”
Fernández, known also by his nickname ″Chente,″ died at 6:15 a.m. in a hospital in Jalisco state, his family said. He had fallen in August and was being treated for other conditions.
Beginning early on Sunday, people began posting messages, many of them recalling the lyrics to one of the favorite mariachi requests at parties and restaurants that goes “I am still the king.”
Social media was used by music icons like Pitbull, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan to express their condolences. Some even cited how his music had influenced them. Famous country singer George Strait said he was “one of my heroes.”
“I am broken hearted. Don Chente has been an angel to me all my life,” Ricky Martin said. “The only thing that gives me comfort at this moment, is that every time we saw each other I told him how important he was to me.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also expressed his condolences, calling him “a symbol of the ranchera music.”
On Sunday night, his widow, María del Refugio Abarca Villaseñor, along with his children, grandchildren and hundreds of relatives and friends said goodbye to Fernández at his favorite place, his ranch.
Los Tres Potrillos Ranch on the outskirts Guadalajara vibrated as his supporters and marichis, who were seated on stands covered in flowers, said goodbye to the Mexican giant. The song “Mexico Lindo” opened the public funeral at Los Tres Potrillos. The coffin was decorated with his iconic charro cap. His private funeral was scheduled for Monday.
The timing of his death was also highlighted by fans as Fernández often sang on Dec. 12 to mark the Catholic pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, an event that attracts vast crowds. Following the cancellation of last year’s commemoration due to the pandemic, it will be held this Sunday.
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
His records sold more than 50,000,000 copies and he was in over 30 movies. His star was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998.
He said farewell to Azteca Stadium, Mexico City in April 2016. For the occasion, spectators came from Mexico City as well as Colombia and the United States.
Adriana Gomez Licicon (Associated Press) contributed this report.