George Strait Mourns Death of Mexican Music Icon Vicente Fernández: ‘One of My Heroes’

by Clayton Edwards
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(Photo by Rich Fury/ACMA2019/Getty Images for ACM)

Earlier today, the world learned that mariachi legend and King of Rancheras, Vicente Fernández passed away. He fell while working on his Guadalajara ranch in August. Until this morning, he was in serious but stable condition and on a ventilator. His death sent shockwaves of grief through the Mexican music world. This afternoon, George Strait took a moment to say a few words about Vicente.

It’s probably fair to say that a good portion of George Strait’s fans hasn’t heard of Vicente Fernández. Strait, on the other hand, was a huge fan. In fact, the King of Country Music counted Fernández among his heroes alongside greats like Bob Wills. Check out the tweet below to see one king pay tribute to another.

In the tweet, George Strait said, “Sad news today. We lost the amazing legendary Vicente Fernández this morning. One of my heroes. May he rest in peace and may God bless and comfort his family.” Then, Strait sent some parting words Vicente’s way. “Hasta la Cruz, Chente!!” That translates to “until the Cross” or “until you see the Cross,” and I’m sure I’m missing some cultural/linguistic nuance there. Chente is just a shortened, friendly form of Vicente.  

If you listen to George Strait, there’s a good chance you’ve heard at least one Vicente Fernández song.

George Strait Covers Vicente Fernández

George Strait included the song “El Rey” on his 2009 album Twang. This song probably took many of Strait’s fans by surprise. It features the King of Country Music singing the entire song in Spanish.

One version of the song or another is always in rotation on radio stations in Mexico as well as in American border states. Being a native Texan, Strait probably heard the song often.

Back in 2009, Strait talked about what the song means to him and why he covered it. According to Songfacts, George Strait said, “I’ve loved mariachi music for years, and although I’m not fluent in Spanish, I’m trying to get better. ‘El Rey’ has been a favorite song of mine for years, and I request it every time chance I get.” Since he loved the song so much he decided that he would try to cut it.

“El Rey” is a ranchera or Mexican folk song. At the same time, it was one of Vicente Fernández’s biggest hits. In fact, Strait said he used Vicente’s version of the song as inspiration for his own. “I had a verson by the great Vicente Fernández. I played it for the guys, and we worked it out,” he said. Strait went on to say that he was pleased with how the song turned out. Then, he added, “I hope the real Mariachis like it. That will be the real test.”

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