The legendary GRAMMY-winning Mexican singer known as "The King of Ranchera Music" died Dec. 12 at the age of 81. On Thursday, which would have marked Vicente's 82nd birthday, his son took to social media to honor him by sharing a story about him.
"Here's a quick story," Alejandro began in Spanish. "On the day of the first photo, I was headed to an event for an album. I've never been prone to getting nervous, but that day something that bothered me."
"My hands were shaking a little and I felt my heart beat out of my chest," he continued. "Minutes before going on stage, my dad entered the dressing room. He looked at me like he knew what was going on. He approached and grabbed my tie, because it was the only thing that wasn't done."
He recalled his father saying to him, "Come here, mijo. I'm going to tie that tie for you like when you were a baby."
"Without a doubt, it was the only detail that was missing," Alejandro continued, wishing him a happy birthday and adding that not a single day goes by that he's not thinking about him. "Feliz cumpleaños hasta el cielo, viejo. No hay un solo día que la familia no te lleve a donde quiera que vayamos. Te amo por siempre! ♥️."
"Don Vicente Fernández's current state is undoubtedly serious but stable after he suffered a fall that caused trauma to his cervical spine," the statement read in part, in Spanish. "At the moment he is post-operation and finds himself with ventilatory assistance and critical patient care in the intensive care unit."
Vicente amassed a catalog of hits like "Soy de Abajo," "Palabra de Rey," "Perdóname," and his legendary classic "Volver, Volver." At the height of his fame, Vicente regularly performed to packed arenas. In 2016, he took the stage for his final tour performance at Mexico City's Aztec Stadium as thousands of fans came to bid him farewell. The music legend, whose performance uniform consisted of a traditional Mexican charro adorned with beaded accents and his signature sombrero, sold more than 50 million records worldwide, won three GRAMMY Awards, nine Latin GRAMMYS and 14 Lo Nuestro Awards.
Born on Feb. 17, 1940, in the rural town of Huentitán El Alto in Jalisco, Mexico, Vicente grew up working on his father’s ranch, and in his uncle’s restaurant, but his dream was to become an entertainer, like Mexican balero idol Pedro Infante.
“When I was six or seven, I would go see Pedro Infante’s movies, and I would tell my mother, ‘When I grow up, I’ll be like him,’” he once explained in an interview.
Vicente learned to play guitar at eight years old. By fifth grade, he dropped out of school and worked whatever odd jobs he could find to help support his family who moved to Tijuana after his father lost their ranch. In 1954, Vicente won first place in an amateur singing competition, which led to more small singing gigs, although it would take several years before he caught the attention of a major record label.
Now fully devoted to launching his career, Vicente did whatever he could to land a break, including moving to Mexico City and working as a restaurant singer. With no luck, Vicente moved back to Guadalajara and married his former neighbor, Maria del Refugio "Cuca" Abarca Villasenor, in 1963. The year was an emotional one for Vicente, whose mother died from cancer within a week of his son, Vicente Jr., being born three months premature.
On the music front, Vicente was on the brink of a major opportunity. The sudden death of Infante, and other Mexican megastars of the era, left a void for record labels to fill with fresh talent. After the death of Javier Solís in 1966, Vicente signed with CBS Mexico (Sony Music), one of the labels that initially turned him down. Under the CBS Mexico imprint, Vicente recorded early hits like “Tu Camino y El Mio” and “Perdóname.” His greatest hit, “Volver, Volver,” was released in 1972. With his music career on the fast track, Vicente broke into acting, appearing in films like Tacos al Carbon and Uno y Medio Contra el Mundo, followed by a starring role in 1976’sLa Ley del Monte. Vicente appeared in more than 30 films, in addition to singing the soundtracks for some of the projects. The work ethic that he picked up in childhood extended to the stage, even when facing the most tragic of circumstances. In 1970, he famously continued performing despite learning that his father had died. Years later, Vicente refused to cancel a tour despite his son being kidnapped for several months.
In 1984, Vicente earned his first platinum-selling album,15 Grandes con el Número Uno, and his first GRAMMY nomination. He was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1988, and won the first of his many Nuestro Awards the following year. Throughout the ‘90s, Vicente released a string of hit songs, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2002, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences named Vicente its Person of the Year. In 2006, he released the comeback album, La Tragedia del Vaquero. That year, Sony commemorated his tenure in the music business with the greatest hits album, La Legend Viviente (The Living Legend). More than 40 years into his career, Vicente made history with his 2008 performance film Primera Fila, which became the top-selling musical DVD in the U.S. He followed up with the successful albums Necesito de Ti, El Hombre Que Más Te Amó, both of which earned GRAMMYs, and the 2011’s Otra Vez.
For as much as he loved the stage, Vicente knew when it was time to walk away. Having recorded more than 300 songs, many of which have never been heard, Vicente had enough music in the vault to release numerous posthumous albums. He officially retired from live performances in 2016, though he vowed to continue releasing music. Two years later, Vicente debuted Más Romántico Que Nunca,a 12-track LP of love songs that earned him a Latin GRAMMY in 2019. He also brought the crowd to its feet with a surprise performance during the ceremony, which included son Alejandro and grandson Alex.
His final album, A Mis 80's, was released in 2020. It is currently nominated for a 2022 GRAMMY Award for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano).