Mexican ranchera music icon dies at 81

December 13, 2021
Vicente Fernández, the legendary Mexican singer, has died. He was 81.
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Vicente “Chente” Fernández, the legendary Mexican singer known for his signature charro suit and sombrero, has died, according to a post on his verified Instagram account. He was 81.

“It was an honor and a great pride to share with everyone a great musical career and to give everything for his audience,” read a post on Fernández’s account translated from Spanish. “Thank you for continuing to applaud, thank you for continuing to sing.” 

The singer died Sunday morning, the post said. His son, Vicente Fernández Jr., thanked his father “for everything” in an Instagram tribute on Sunday alongside a photo of the two of them smiling together.

USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for Fernández and his son for comment.

“It is with deep sadness that I receive the news that one of the most important artists of Mexican popular culture, the undisputed symbol of ranchera music, dies,” Alejandra Frausto, Mexico’s secretary of culture, tweeted. “A million mariachis accompany you on your way. His infinite musical legacy will continue to resonate strongly. ” 

Fernandez’s label Sony Music Entertainment México joined in the international mourning over “the passing of the greatest icon of Mexico, Vicente Fernández” with a statement on Sunday.

“Today, Mexico is in mourning,” the statement read. “Known worldwide since the 1990s as the Frank Sinatra of ranchera music, Don Chente bids farewell to the audiences who honor the life and work of this supreme interpreter, the man who did things his way. Rest in peace, Vicente Fernández.”

The news comes four months after Fernández, also known as “El Rey de la Música Ranchera,” suffered a fall that caused a spinal cord injury. He underwent surgery in Guadalajara, Mexico, in August and was on “ventilatory assistance and in critical patient care in the intensive care units,” according to a social media post at the time.

That wasn’t the first time Fernández struggled with his health.

In 2019, he revealed he had a cancerous lump in his liver, but controversially refused a liver transplant out of concern that his donor could be a “homosexual” or an “addict.” 

“They wanted to give me some other man’s liver, and I told them ‘I’m not going to sleep next to my wife with another man’s liver,’ ” Fernández said in 2019 on a Mexican TV program “De Primera Mano.” 

Background:Mexican singer Vicente Fernández in ‘serious but stable’ condition after suffering a fall

Known for hit songs such as “El Rey,” “Acá Entre Nos” and “Por Tu Maldito Amor,” Fernández is a cultural icon who helped popularize ranchera music. In 1991, the Houston Chronicle compared him to Frank Sinatra, calling him “Ranchera’s Sinatra.”

Throughout his decades-long career, Fernández recorded more than 50 albums, sold more than 50 million records and appeared in more than 30 films. He was nominated for 13 Grammys and won three. He was a perennial favorite at awards shows such as Premios Lo Nuestro Awards and Latin Grammy Awards, and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998.

That same year, he was inducted into Billboard’s Latin Music Hall of Fame. He was recognized as Person of the Year by the Latin Recording Academy in 2002.

Fernández formally retired from the stage in 2016 with a splashy farewell show in Mexico City, but performed during the Latin Grammy Awards in 2019 with his son Alejandro and grandson Alex.

Though he is best known for his musical career, Fernández also appeared in many Mexican films, including 1976’s “La Ley del Monte” and 1978’s “El Arracadas.”

Fernández is survived by his wife, María del Refugio Abarca Villasenor, and their three sons, Vicente Jr., Gerardo, Alejandro,and a daughter, Alejandra.

Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY; and the Associated Press

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