Before I began writing this piece, I put on “Dreaming of You,” the title track from the dearly departed Selena’s first English language album that was released a few months after her tragic death. Even 20 years later, “Dreaming” still hits hard because it not only takes me to the sad end of the feature film, ‘Selena,’ starring Jennifer Lopez, but it also strikes a deep chord because it reminds me of just how tragic the unfortunate death of Selena was. For those of you who may not know, the Tejano music starlet was tragically gunned down by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, leaving the world in mourning and leaving behind an incredible music legacy. March 31st will mark the twentieth anniversary of the singer’s untimely death, and to commemorate, there will be a festival called, “Fiesta del Flor” (“party of the flower”), which will be held in the diva’s hometown of Corpus Christi on April 17th and April 18th. While the singer’s music fame was based mostly to Mexican culture, the rest of the country-and the world-certainly felt the impact of her death twenty years ago. So today, Philly Mixtape is going to open the Mixtape Music Vault and remember Selena for not only those who are familiar with the gone-too-soon star, but also for the ones who aren’t, so everyone can get lost in the amazing talents of this Tejano pop sensation.
Born on April 16th, 1971, Selena Quintanilla-Perez was the youngest member of the Quintanilla family. When she was just nine years old, she joined her elder siblings as part of the group, Selena y los Dinos, where they began performing at their family’s restaurant. From the time Selena was six years old, her father Abraham knew she had it, telling People magazine, “Her timing, her pitch were perfect, I could see it from day one.”
After about a year performing at the restaurant, recession effects from Texas oil bust of 1980 put the business under and Selena’s family were forced to close it and file bankruptcy, eventually getting evicted from their home. Abraham didn’t want to give up on the band, so he took them wherever they could get a gig, performing at weddings, quinceaneras, fairs and even street corners. During the first few years of the family performing, they could barely afford the necessities, but still the show went on and in 1984, Selena recorded her first LP record, ‘Selena y los Dinos,’ and soon she started to climb her way to the top.
During her music rise, Selena was highly criticized for singing Tejano music because it was a mostly male dominated genre, but she continued to make her mark. After the release of their first album, Selena y los Dinos appeared on the Johnny Canales show, where they would go on to perform for nearly three years. While on the popular program, Selena’s fame grew, and soon she was discovered by Rick Trevi, the founder of the Tejano Music Awards. After winning the Tejano Music Award for female vocalist in 1986 (she would go on to win nine consecutive times after that), she soon signed with Capital EMI Latin, releasing her self-titled album in 1989. The success of her debut set was then followed with ‘Ven Conmigo,’ which would go on to become the first recording by a female Tejano artist to achieve gold status by the RIAA. Following ‘Ven Conmigo,’, she would go on to release ‘Entre a Mi Mundo,’ which was deemed the breakthrough of her career, and also contains her signature hit, “Como La Flor.” (Those who have seen ‘Selena’ are certainly familiar with the standout track.) Many more hit singles and albums followed in the early ’90s, as Selena became THAT diva representing Tejano music.
However, sadly, just months before Selena had planned on making it big all over the world, her life was cut short when Saldivar shot and killer the singer, after Selena confronted her about her apparent embezzlement of $30, 000 dollars from the official Selena fan club. The afternoon of March 31st, Selena went to a Days Inn in Corpus Christie to confront Saldivar, but as we all soon learned, the outcome of the meeting took that horrific turn that no one will ever forget.
When news of Selena’s death spread, reactions all over were compared to the reactions from the sudden deaths of Elvis Presley and John Lennon. Major networks interrupted their regularly scheduled programming to break the news to tell everyone that the world had lost “The Mexican Madonna.” The story of Selena’s death also landed on the front page news on The New York Times several days in a row, as well as in a collector’s issue of People magazine. More than 60, 000 mourners traveled to her funeral, with some traveling more than thousands of miles to Selena’s house in Corpus Christie. Two days after her death, governor at the time, George W. Bush, declared that her birthday would now be known as Selena Day in Texas.
While many of us have seen the movie ‘Selena,’ a lot of us never got to know what the real Selena was like, besides from what we saw in the film. At the sad end of this music day, losing Selena on that fateful afternoon was a huge blow to the music industry because there was no one else like her…and there most certainly never will be. She was one-of-a-kind, and we can only imagine where she would be today, most likely sitting on top of an empire that her talent and charisma built. Sadly, we never got to see if Selena would’ve gotten the music crossover success she deserved, but as long as we have her incredible music catalog and her extraordinary legacy, Selena’s light will continue to shine on.
“Dreaming of You”
“I Could Fall In Love”
“Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”
“Como La Flor”