Selena Is Forever
A fatal gunshot on March 31, 1995, ended the life of Tejano music's iconic Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, but her talent, light and legacy has endured. Known for her soulful vocal range, heart-wrenching lyrics, hip-swaying cumbia moves and skintight outfits, the young artist redefined Latin music, transcending borders and eventually seeping into the mainstream.
Even before her death, Selena was dubbed "The Queen of Tejano." The genre combines traditional Mexican rhythms with stateside country music and was conceived in Texas, of course, where the Mexican American singer grew up and served as lead singer in Selena Y Los Dinos. The young band also included her brother, Abraham, on bass; her sister, Suzette on the drums; and her future husband, Chris Perez, on guitar. (Her father, Abraham, served as trainer and manager.)
Selena grew up speaking English; she learned to sing Spanish songs phonetically and only became fluent over time. Consequently, most of her hits weren't in her native tongue. She went solo with 1989's Selena, and the following year, Ven Conmigo became the first Tejano album to go Gold. As her popularity grew, many fans referred to her as "the Mexican Madonna" for her flashy dance moves and risqué ensembles. She didn't argue.
The 1993 hit Selena Live! was her next big triumph, scoring a Best Mexican Album Grammy. A year later came Amor Prohibido, which spawned the hits "Fotos y Recuerdos," "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" and "No Me Queda Mas." The combination of ranchera, pop and hip-hop influences made it a landmark production with a unique sound few artists at the time could match; the title track earned the Pop Ballad of the Year award at 1994's Premio Lo Nuestro awards.
By then, Selena wasn't just selling No. 1 hits -- she was starting to build an empire, long before celebrity fragrances and clothing lines oversaturated the market. After her Grammy win, she launched two clothing boutiques, Selena Etc., in San Antonio and her hometown of Corpus Christi. As the accolades poured in, she hit the studio once again and aimed for true crossover success with an English-language album, Dreaming of You, partly produced by her own brother, A.B. Quintanilla. The idea was a mixture of R&B, Tejano pop and dancehall tracks; her tender yet powerful voice would finally be exposed to the masses via tracks dripping with soul and romance.
Tragically, Selena wouldn't live to finish it. In 1995, the 23-year-old was murdered by Yolana Sadivar, founder of the Selena Fan Club, who'd been accused of embezzling money from the singer. Posthumously, the carefully compiled Dreaming of You became her biggest album yet, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The melancholic hit "I Could Fall In Love" showcased Selena's range and breathed the essence of the heartbreak everyone felt.
As with fellow icons from Gloria Estefan to Celia Cruz, Selena played a major role in delivering Latin music to American pop culture. Whether you followed her career in real time or only became a fan after Jennifer Lopez's eerie yet impressively spot-on depiction of her in the hit 1997 biopic, there's no denying that the talented star was a legend in the making. Her throne has remained untouched since.