Vicente Fernandez, Towering Icon of Mexican Music, Dies at 81.
“A singer can sing anything. But me, my life is Mexican music. For me, putting on my charro outfit is a matter of pride and it’s a very big responsibility.”
Vicente Fernández, the towering icon of Mexican ranchera music whose powerful voice defined the lives of generations of fans throughout Latin America, died Sunday morning (Dec. 12) in a hospital in Guadalajara, his family confirms.
The cause was complications following surgery for a cervical spine injury after a bad fall last August. Fernández had remained hospitalized since then in stable but serious condition.
Over the last 24 hours, his condition deteriorated, according to official posts from his medical team on his official Instagram account. He was 81 years old.
Immediately recognizable for his elegant charro outfits and hat, his bold mustache and his dazzling smile, Fernández was only five-foot-7 but had the stature and bearing of a giant.
Vicente Fernández Cause of Death
His concerts were the stuff of legend, extending for hours on end depending on the audiences’ whim. Always accompanied by his mariachi, Fernández was the ultimate musical companion, making grown men cry with his tales of broken hearts and driving women to throw themselves (or their underwear) at him onstage, even as a septuagenarian.
The cause was complications following surgery for a cervical spine injury after a bad fall last August. Fernández had remained hospitalized since then in stable but serious condition. Over the last 24 hours, his condition deteriorated, according to official posts from his medical team on his official Instagram account.
Fernández’s death is not just a death. It’s also the end of an era of extraordinary Mexican music and legendary performers and composers — Javier Solís, Pedro Infante, Antonio Aguilar, José Alfredo Jiménez, Jorge Negrete — of which Fernández was the youngest.
How did Vicente Fernández die?
On the charts, no other voice of traditional Mexican has been as successful or as recognizable. A relentless touring and recording artist, Fernández has an output of over 50 albums and sits at No. 5 on Billboard’s Greatest Latin Artists of All Time chart and placed 15 albums, including six No. 1s, on the top 10 of Billboard’s top Latin Albums chart, more than any other regional Mexican act. He placed 61 songs on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, including 20 top 10s.
In the touring arena, Fernández was relentless. As recently as 2014, he landed at No. 2 on Billboard’s weekly touring tally with $7.3 million in sales from 12 sold-out concerts at Mexico City’s Auditorio Nacional. His 2014 run of shows, which included U.S. arenas, were supposed to be his farewell tour. Fernandez would play his last tour show in 2016 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico.
Fernandez was also an actor who starred in over 30 films, emulating the careers of his hero Pedro Infante.
Beyond the chart success, however, Fernández was Mexican music.
“Mi’ja, I’ve always said it,” he told Billboard in an interview at his fabled ranch in Guadalajara in 2012. “A singer can sing anything. But me, my life is Mexican music. For me, putting on my charro outfit is a matter of pride and it’s a very big responsibility. The charro outfit goes hand in hand with the personality Vicente Fernández has given it. Without the charro outfit, I don’t feel I’m me.”
Fernández legacy is cemented in the public consciousness of all Latin America, where he was indelibly identified with his hit “El Rey,” written and originally recorded by José Alfredo Jiménez, but forever preserved in Fernández’s voice after he recorded it in 1991.
Beyond the recordings, there is the family. Fernández is the father of Alejandro Fernández, another towering figure of Mexican music who came to be known as the first Mexican music star to also carve out an equally successful career in pop. Alejandro Fernández’s son, in turn, recently launched his own singing career. In one of Fernández’s last public presentations, he sang with his son and grandson at the 2019 Latin Grammy awards in one of the most spectacular and moving performances in the history of the awards, with all three men wearing their traditional charro outfits and hats and performing classics like “Volver Volver.”