Selena (Quintanilla Perez)

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Selena (Quintanilla Perez)

Selena (Quintanilla Perez), Grammy winning tejano star murdered on the brink of her crossover success; b. Lake Jackson, Tex., April 16, 1971; d. Corpus Christi, Tex., March 31, 1995. A few days shy of her 24th birthday when she was shot dead by the president of her fan club, Selena was already a major star in Latin music and about to make her move into the mainstream pop arena. Often referred to as “the Latina Madonna,” she was much beloved in the Hispanic community, known for her loyalty to her family and her roots as well as her dedication to anti-drug and AIDS education programs. Ironically, although most of her success came from songs performed in Spanish, she never really mastered the language, learning the songs phonetically.

Her father played with the tejano band Los Dinos even before his daughter was born. She once described the music as a blend of country, polka, and jazz. By the time she was 10, Selena was singing with the band, recording for the Latin audience by 1983. Still in her teens, she married Los Dinos guitarist Chris Perez. The rest of the band consisted of her brother Abraham on bass and her sister Suzette on drums. By 1987, Selena earned Female Vocalist of the Year and Performer of the Year honors at the Tejano Music Awards, which led the Latin division of EMI to come calling. Selena and Los Dinos released their EMI debut in 1990. They released two albums a year, winning the 1993 Best Mexican American Performance Grammy for Selena Live. Selena invested some of her newfound wealth in manufacturing her own line of clothes, and also opened a Corpus Christi boutique.

In 1994 Selena appeared in the film Don Juan De-Marco, playing a singer, and won another Grammy for the title track of her gold Amor Prohibido album. By 1995, she had sold out 61,000 seats at the Astrodome for a concert and recorded her first English-language album. However, Selena’s time in the spotlight was short-lived. She discovered that the president of her fan club (who also managed the Corpus Christi boutique) had been embezzling money from the club. When Selena fired her, the woman shot the star, who died an hour later. The murderer was convicted and sentenced to a minimum 30 years in jail.

Ironically, Selena became even more popular after death, mirroring the careers of stars from Elvis to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. The Dreaming of You album came out, topped the charts, and went double platinum. A movie made of the star’s life also became a hit. The title track rose to #22 pop.

Disc: Selena (1989); Ven Conmigo (1990); Entre a Mi Mundo (1992); Live (1993); Amor Prohibido (1994); Mis Primeras Graba-ciones Freddie (1995); Las Reinas del Pueblo (1995); Dreaming of You (1995); Siempre Selena (1996).

—Hank Bordowitz