A look into Mariachi music, and the late Vicente Fernandez, who was at the forefront of the sound

Mariachi music is the most well-known and iconic genre in the country of Mexico, with its roots dating back to the early 1800s. It is very emotional, celebrating the joys and struggles of the Mexican people. 

Jair Hernandez

In the more modern version, it typically features a singer, classical guitar, trumpets, and violins. It is such a historic category of music that there were many who became nationally famous from it and revolutionized the style. 

Said to be “the King of Machos and Heartbreak,” Vicente Fernandez was at the forefront of this sound. Prior to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, the place and impact of mariachi were very rural and specific to cities. Afterward, the music saw a slight growth that gave it access to the whole country. 

With the development of the radio, cinema, and phonograph, the appeal of music was finally able to be seen by everyone. Vicente Fernandez was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, which was the birthplace of mariachi as well. The music was enjoyed by many during this time, but it was mostly seen in the cities in which it started. 

When he was first introduced to it at age 6, his place as an artist in his community was cemented. After learning how to play the guitar and even singing the local folk songs in his community at age 8, many people around him knew that he had the potential to be great. As is the case for most artists, when he was a teenager and young adult, it was difficult for him to truly find the work he wanted. 

While working typical blue-collar jobs, he would spend all his free time singing for mariachi bands at weddings and parties. There were many attempts to get his music out to the world, but every time he was rejected by the labels he went to. 

At the age of 26, CBS Mexico took an extremely risky chance by signing him. In Mexico, and its culture, mariachi music is a staple of happy celebrations such as weddings, birthdays, and family gatherings. You can’t go to one of those without hearing a rendition of Vicente Fernandez. 

If his own song isn’t being played on the speaker, there is a live band there covering some of his music. You can ask most people around any place in Mexico about him, and they will know who you are talking about immediately. 

His place as an artist in society is monumental and almost essential for the population. The impact Vicente Fernandez had was unlike any other artist in the world. His listeners felt as if they were seeing directly into his mind while listening. The thunderous power of his voice combined with the raw emotion of experience had never been heard before, especially in the context of mariachi. 

With such a personal sound, you constantly feel connected with him. He and the sound he helped popularize, were almost needed by most because he was someone to turn to while experiencing any feeling or emotion. Loved by many, his death in 2021 shocked nearly the entire country of Mexico. 

Some of the biggest Mexican artists of any genre were doing tribute concerts and speeches just for him. “Your spirit and voice will live forever in your family, your town, and your people,” said his son in a personal tribute. His legacy is eternal in the hearts of the people, with multiple generations knowing of him and wanting to pass his name on as long as possible. 

Due to his unparalleled impact on the culture of mariachi, a 4-ton statue of him was unveiled where he was buried in Jalisco, Mexico, recently in 2023. This was a 2-day tribute to him that was attended by anyone who could be there.

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