Vicente Fernández, the powerful tenor whose songs of love, loss and patriotism inspired by life in rural Mexico endeared him to generations of fans as “El Rey,” the king of traditional ranchera music, died on Sunday morning. He was 81.
His death was announced in a post on his official Instagram account, which did not give a cause or say where he died. He had been hospitalized for months after a spinal injury he sustained in August, according to previous posts from the account.
Accompanied by his mariachi band, Mr. Fernández brought ranchera music, which emerged from the ranches of Mexico in the 19th century, to the rest of Latin America and beyond. In his signature charro outfit and intricately embroidered sombrero, a celebration of the genre’s countryside origins, he performed at some of the largest venues in the world.
He recorded dozens of albums and hundreds of songs over a career that spanned six decades. His enduring popularity was reflected in a series of industry accolades, including a place in the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, three Grammy Awards and eight Latin Grammy Awards. He sold tens of millions of copies of his albums and starred in dozens of movies.
He was known for giving epic, hourslong concerts, communing directly with his fans and taking swigs from bottles of alcohol that were offered to him. Known fondly as “Chente,” he would tell his audiences that “as long as you keep applauding, your ‘Chente’ won’t stop singing.”
Reviewing a 1995 performance at Radio City Music Hall for The New York Times, Jon Pareles wrote that Mr. Fernández “sang with operatic power and melodrama,” flexing his “ardent tenor” to “prodigious crescendos and a vibrato that could register on the Richter scale.”
He continued to give marathon performances well into his 70s. At a 2008 concert at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Fernández held court for three hours. A lingering note, delivered in his “lively, if slightly weathered tenor,” could render the audience silent, Jon Caramanica wrote in his review in The Times.
Vicente Fernández was born on Feb. 17, 1940, in Huentitán El Alto, in the state of Jalisco in western central Mexico. His father, Ramón Fernández, was a rancher and his mother, Paula Gómez de Fernández, stayed at home to raise their son.
He grew up watching matinee movies featuring the Mexican ranchera singer Pedro Infante, an early influence. When he was 8, he received his first guitar and began studying folk music. He left school in the fifth grade and later moved with his family to Tijuana after their cattle business collapsed. He told The Los Angeles Times in 1999 that he took whatever work he could, laying bricks and shining shoes, and even washing dishes.
“I’ve always …….