Born on February 17, 1940, in Huentitan El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico; son of Ramon Fernandez (a rancher) and Paula Gomez de Fernandez (a homemaker); married Maria "Cuca" de Refugio Abarca Villasenor, 1963; four children. Addresses: Record company--Sony Discos Inc., 2190 NW 89th Pl., Miami, FL 33172. Eemail@example.com. Website--Vicente Fernandez Official Website: http://www.vicentefernandez.com.
Known as el idolo de Mexico and el rey throughout the Latin world, Vicente Fernandez, who started his career singing for tips on the street, has become a Mexican cultural icon, recording more than 50 albums and contributing to 40 movies. Although less well known to English-speaking audiences, he has consistently filled stadiums and venues throughout his 35-plus years of performing. His repertoire is pure ranchera, a style described by Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald as representing "the Mexico of old--a way of life romanticized by rural ranches, revolution, and philandering caballeros."
Born on February 17, 1940, in Huentitan el Alto, Jalisco, Mexico, Fernandez spent the early years of his life on his father Ramon's ranch on the outskirts of Guadalajara. Here the idyllic ranchera lifestyle was instilled in him. His mother often took him to see the films of Pedro Infante, the king of Mexican bolero. Fernandez told Leila Cobo of Billboard the significance of these films: "When I was 6 or 7, I would go see Pedro Infante's movies, and I would tell my mother, 'When I grow up, I'll be like them.'" By age eight he had taken up the guitar and was practicing his singing in the style of the ranchera singers he heard on the radio.
In 1954 Fernandez won an amateur contest sponsored by a Guadalajara television station. It was his first break into performing and he began to play at local at clubs and gatherings. Around this time, however, Fernandez's father lost the ranch and the family moved into the city of Tijuana. Fernandez, who had dropped out of school in the fifth grade, began working odd jobs in the city such as janitor, dishwasher, waiter--whatever he could find. All the while, he still held to his musical aspirations.
In 1960 Fernandez devoted himself to music full time. He went back to Guadalajara, where he performed in the streets for tips while also appearing occasionally on the television show La calandria musical. After a couple of years Fernandez tried his luck in Mexico City, where he found a job singing in a restaurant called El Amanacer Tapatio. When he wasn't working he was auditioning for recording companies--and constantly being turned down.
The time Fernandez spent in Mexico City was discouraging. By 1963 he left to marry a former neighbor, Maria "Cuca" de Refugio Abarca Villasenor. They now have four children, the oldest of which, Vicente, Jr., was born three months premature in 1963; Fernandez's mother died within a week of Vicente, Jr.'s, birth.
In 1966 tragedy created an opportunity for Fernandez. In the spring of that year, Javier Solis, Mexico's most popular traditional singer, died. To fill the gap the record companies called on Fernandez. CBS Mexico, now Sony Discos, which had originally spurned Fernandez, now offered him a recording contract. He released his first recording, "Perdoname," with the company in 1966; Fernandez still records for Sony Discos.
Fernandez's career took off at that point and has been nonstop ever since. He branched into acting with the film Uno y medio contra el mundo, released in 1971. His first hit movie, for which he did the soundtrack, was La ley del monte, released in 1974. In the span of 20 years Fernandez has acted, sung, and worked behind the scenes on more than 40 films. He stopped acting in 1991, feeling that he was too old to maintain the proper image for his movies.
Fernandez works hard for his audiences and his performances are legendary. His adoring fans consistently pack the house, whatever the venue, from city squares to large arenas in the United States. He promises each audience that he'll sing until they are tired, making his concerts last from two and a half to four hours. Maintaining the ranchera tradition, Fernandez always performs wearing the charro, an embroidered suit and sombrero. He explained to Matt Weitz of the Dallas Morning News, "[T]o me it's [the charro] Mexico's second flag. When I put it on, I become an ambassador."
His pride in tradition and dedication to his fans has led to him to perform when many other artists would have canceled. His father died in 1970, just as Fernandez was about to go onstage. Overwhelmed by the tragic news but determined not to let the crowd go without a show, Fernandez went onstage and performed. In 1998 Fernandez continued to tour despite the kidnaping of his oldest son. (He was released four months later when ransom was paid.)
Fernandez has recorded more than 50 albums in 35 years and claims to have 300 more songs recorded--making another 30 albums possible even if he retires. When he records an album he spends 12-13 hours in the studio recording up to 18 songs. He takes a day off and then returns for another marathon session, recording another 15 or more songs. From those recordings, he and his producer choose 12. Fernandez's greatest hit was "Volver, volver," released in 1976; his first million-selling album was 1983's 15 Grandes con el numero uno. In 1987 he launched his first tour outside the United States and Mexico when he traveled to Bolivia and Columbia.
By the end of the 1980s Fernandez had been famous for more than 20 years, yet he had never earned a major award and was beginning to think he would have to die before he was recognized. His patience was rewarded in 1990 when he released the album Vicente Fernandez y las clasicas de Jose Alfredo Jimenez, a tribute to Mexico's most famous songwriter, Jose Alfredo Jimenez. The album earned him Billboard and Univision's Latin Music Award for Mexican Regional Male Artist of the Year, which he won five times from 1989 to 1993. Other awards and recognition followed, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2002 Fernandez was recognized by the Latin Recording Academy as Person of the Year. The same year he celebrated his thirty-fifth anniversary in the entertainment industry, a career in which he has sold more than 43 million records. He has 51 albums listed on the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) registry for gold, platinum, and multiplatinum selling records. With 35 years of experience under his belt, Fernandez has helped maintain a Mexican tradition that may very well pass away when he does. For someone who was told he'd be better off selling peanuts than singing professionally, Fernandez has made a tremendous impact on the music of his homeland.
by Eve M. B. Hermann
Vicente Fernandez's Career
Began playing guitar by age eight; won amateur contest in Guadalajara, 1954; performed on La calandria musical television show, 1960; moved to Mexico City, joined Mariachi Amanecer, sang in restaurants for tips, 1964; signed with CBS Mexico (now Sony Discos), recorded first single, "Perdoname," 1966; appeared in Uno y medio contra el mundo, first Mexican film, 1971; first hit movie, La ley del monte, 1974; song "Volver, volver" made him a legend, 1976; assistant director for the film El tahur, 1979; toured Bolivia and Columbia, 1987; performed with Mariachi Chapala, 1997-; performed "Cielito lindo" at Republican National Convention, 2000; toured with son Alejandro Fernandez, 2001.
Vicente Fernandez's Awards
Key to the city of San Antonio, TX, 1982; Billboard/Univision Latin Music Awards, Mexican Regional Male Artist of the Year, 1989-93; Los Angeles City Hall passed a resolution in appreciation for his music and work for Latin communities worldwide, 1997; induction, Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, awarded star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1998; Latin Grammy Award, Best Regional Mexican Song for "Borracho te recuerdo," 2001; Billboard Music Award, Greatest Hits Album of the Year for Historia de un idolo, Vol. 1, Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, Latin Grammy for Best Ranchero Album for Mas con el numero uno, and Legend Award, 2002.
- Selected discography
- La voz que usted esperaba , Sony Discos, 1968.
- Vicente Fernandez , Sony Discos, 1969
- Ni en defensa propia , Sony Discos, 1970.
- Soy DE ABAJO , Sony Discos, 1970.
- Camino inseguro , Sony Discos, 1971.
- Es muy tu vida , Sony Discos, 1971.
- El Jalisciense , Sony Discos, 1972.
- Si no te quisiera , Sony Discos, 1972.
- 15 grandes con el numero uno , Sony Discos, 1973.
- El idolo de mexico , Sony Discos, 1974.
- El rey ,Sony Discos, 1974.
- El hijo del pueblo , Sony Discos, 1975.
- La ley del monte , Sony Discos, 1975.
- Pos los palenques , Sony Discos, 1977.
- El tahur , Sony Discos, 1979.
- Alejandro y los valses clasicos , Sony Discos, 1981.
- El numero uno , Sony Discos, 1981.
- 15 nuevos exitos con el idolo , Sony Discos, 1984.
- Vicente Fernandez y las clasicas de Jose Alfredo Jimenez , Sony Discos, 1990.
- El charro Mexicano , Sony Discos, 1991.
- Recordando a los panchos , Sony Discos, 1993.
- Vicente y sus canciones , Sony Discos, 1996.
- Entre el amor y yo ,Sony Discos, 1998.
- Historia de un idolo, Vol. 1 , Sony Discos, 2000.
- Mas con el numero uno , Sony Discos, 2001.
- Historia de un idolo, Vol. 2 , Sony Discos, 2002.
September 3, 2003: Fernandez won a Latin Grammy Award for best ranchero album for 35 Aniversario--Lo Mejor De Lara. Source: "4th Annual Latin Grammy Awards," latingrammy.aol.com/awards/winners.html, September 4, 2003.
April 27, 2006: Fernandez won the Billboard Latin music award for male solo regional Mexican album of the year for Mis Duetos. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bbcom/awards/index.jsp, April 30, 2006.
- Billboard, April 11, 1998; August 31, 2002.
- Chicago Sun-Times,November 3, 1997, p. 34.
- Dallas Morning News, October 7, 1994, p. 30; October 10, 1994, p. 19A.
- Houston Chronicle, September 26, 1993, p. 15; March 29, 1998, p. 7.
- Los Angeles Times, November 5, 1992, p. 1; November 21, 1997, p. B4; May 22, 1999, p. A1; August 15, 2000, p. F3;
- Miami Herald, October 31, 2001, p. 20A.
- Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), September 19, 2002, p. 19A.
- "Latin Music Legends: Vicente Fernandez," Association of Hispanic Arts, http://www.latinoarts.org/bookstore/vfernandez.htm (February 2, 2003).
- "Vicente Fernandez, El Idolo de Mexico, Pulse!, http://pulse.towerrecords.com/contentStory.asp?contentId=2565 (February 2, 2003).