Mexicans pay tribute to Vicente Fernández, icon of ranchera music – The Guardian

Mexicans are in mourning for Vicente Fernández, the elaborately mustachioed icon of ranchera music, whose ballads of love and loss, golden baritones and singular stage presence captured the raw emotions of a nation.

Fans flocked to his ranch in western Jalisco state, where family, friends and fellow crooners paid their final respects to the man known as “El Rey” (the King) – and often just by the diminutive “Chente”.

Cantina patrons broke into versions of his greatest hits, while a stadium full of fans at the national football final belted out an emotional rendition of Volver, Volver – a song of longing for lost love.

“His music is the Mexican sound,” said Ilán Semo, historian at the Iberoamerican University. “It’s something people have in their veins. All of their feelings and sentiments are linked to his music.”

People attend the posthumous tribute of the Mexican singer Vicente Fernández in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Fernández died on 12 December. Photograph: Francisco Guasco/EPA

Fernández died early Sunday morning, having battled illness in recent months after suffering a spinal cord injury during a fall. He had previously been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves.

Such was Fernández’s stature that Andrés Manuel López Obrador ended his morning press conference on Monday by playing Volver, Volver. The president called Fernández “a symbol of ranchera music, a popular singer known in Mexico and abroad and we are going to end the conference by listening to him”.

US President Joe Biden tweeted: “The music world has lost an icon. The music of Vicente Fernández created memories for millions … Vicente will be remembered for generations to come.”

Vicente Fernández was born 17 February 1940, in the ranching community of Huentitán el Alto. He was reputedly bit by the show-business bug after watching films starring Pedro Infante.

He learned to play guitar and sang on the streets of Guadalajara – Mexico’s mariachi heartland – before hitting the big time in the mid-1960s.

“He made ranchera music popular in the cities and beyond the traditional audiences. Then he took it abroad,” where it connected Mexican immigrants with their homeland, said Javier Garza, an editor and journalist in the city of Torreón. “Chente’s rise coincided with the growth of [Mexico’s] urban middle class in the 70s and 80s.”

Fans attend the tribute for the ‘King of Ranchera Music’. Vicente Fernández’s music won fans across Latin America. Photograph: Francisco Guasco/EPA

Famed for projecting an image of virility – sporting thick sideburns, a mustache and bushy eyebrows, which were dyed black …….


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