A Mexican music icon of more than 50 years, singer Vicente Fernandez died Friday at the age of 81.
According to his official website, Fernandez died of cancer.
The singer, from Aguascalientes in western Mexico, is the patriarch of a musical dynasty. His wife and children all played active roles in the family business. His son Vicente Fernandez Jr. is a singer who was a member of the legendary group Los Lobos.
Born as Maximo Fernandez a farmer’s son in the western state of Jalisco, he was trained in classical guitar and became the youngest teacher in his home town to teach a demanding program of norteño music, which later became his main stage attraction.
His two daughters — Marivi and Valeria — were also successful singers and their songs went on to top the charts for years.
“Because of my destiny,” Fernandez told Mexico’s Reforma newspaper in 2011. “It is an important reason to become a professional singer.”
His musical career began in the early 1950s when he was working as a nanny in New York.
The singer was considered one of the top 10 musicians of the 20th century and won many international awards, including six Latin Grammys and a Grammy for best pop instrumental album in 1964.
His songs “Niña,” “Memoria de la selección Mexicana de México” and “Jefe” made him a fan favorite. In the late 1970s, he was the composer for the film “Minha Casa Minha Mate” (“Oh My, There’s a Country”), which was in Spanish with English subtitles and also in Spanish with English subtitles. The film featured the singer singing the popular “Matín” and the number appeared in the 1989 film “Tierra de tiempo.”
Fernandez began his showbiz career as a member of Banda y Vida Huerta. He also worked as a wedding musician for the “Rivera Brothers Band” and as a parlor fiddler and accompanist for several major Mexican stars. In 1989, Fernandez joined the family band Los Lobos.
His other works included “Mejorar la Tierra (My Home Is the Earth)” and “Aquí mismo vivimos por ayer” (“Here we are for yesterday”).
His death was reported by the Mexican newspaper Reforma.
Reforma spoke with him in February when the front cover of its glossy magazine Time Latin was devoted to the legend, who smiled and said he still traveled and played festivals, although he was in poor health.
Born on April 28, 1933, the singer was an avid sun worshiper who enjoyed cooking and learned to read and write at the age of 17, but after his first wife gave birth to his son in 1960, the father resumed work. After his son was killed in the cold war war by being shot down over the North Atlantic in 1959, Fernandez dedicated his life to music.
As a child, he favored Acha Pelos de Los Ángeles (Hands of Europe), the rock group that in 1957 won the first International Grammy Award for “Fabulous Faces.” His country music phase began in the 1960s.
He also made duets with popular female singers Celia Cruz and Los Tucanes de Tijuana.
In addition to his music career, the father of 10 sons and two daughters and grandfather of 16 is a writer and has written several books, including the highly autobiographical book “Vicente in Casa Centro” (“Max in Casa Centro”), from 2001.
Fernandez is survived by his wife and daughters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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