On stage he was respectful to his audience, he achieved a spectacular empathy with the audience. He posed for photos, drank brandy and tequila by bottle, and, As long as they did not stop applauding him, he did not stop singing: perfect epigraph for his presentations, pronounced by himself Vicente Fernandez for the first time in Palenque de León, more than 40 years ago.
The first time I saw him he released the album ‘La Diferencia’ in 1980, at Mesón del Caballo Bayo, a Mexican restaurant down the road from the hippodrome in Mexico City. He was already the star who interpreted ‘In what way I forget you’, and on that album he sang for the first time a song by Juan Gabriel: ‘The difference’.
Always friendly, smiling and with a very particular aroma. He smelled good, he was attentive and the greatest star of Mexican music; the fourth idol after Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and Javier Solís; the latter, his maximum inspiration, who gave him the step to enter the top of the singers in Mexico.
The death of Javier Solís, that April 19, 1966, It was the starting signal for Vicente Fernández to record his first album two years later, at the initiative of a CBS executive who christened it ‘The voice you were waiting for’.
A voice that generated controversy, because its sharp tone was not the one used by consumers of Mexican music, since the trend was the half tone or the brave voice. The inheritance of Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete was the benchmark, but, even in the face of that –and an accumulation of debts–, Vicente came forward.
It was common in interviews for him to comment on his precarious origin, his speech that he started from the bottom as a bricklayer’s assistant and that his love for singing allowed him to be patient to finish the plaster “couples”, while singing in the works at the that later he brought his father, Don Ramón, to help him.
He also said that he had to fighting her father’s heartbreaking alcoholism and the breast cancer that cost her mother, Dona Paula, her life.
But also in short, Don Vicente not only spoke of the five hundred hectares that the ranch ‘Los Tres Potrillos’ measures, and of the four hundred horses that he had. Too he proudly boasted his more than 2,000 charro suits, creations by Lucio Díaz Ugalde, which were his medals for the nights he went out to work.
Those dresses accompanied him throughout America and were the authentic witnesses of his concerts. They reached Colombia, where they loved ‘Chente’ more than the Mexicans themselves. He called it ‘El Otro México’, a place where he was ‘the king’.
Although Colombia also brought him legal complications when they linked him to organized crime, without counting the DEA accusation for having airstrips in his house –which by the way is less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the airport–, but he always came out clean of those signs and even these issues were dealt with intelligence in front of the media, as he claimed that the press was the proper channel to make all his rumors clear.
Always frank, he openly answered what they asked him. One day I interviewed him at the Los Tres Potrillos ranch and when I asked him about the prostate cancer that attacked him in December 2002, he told me: “That’s horrible, you should check yourself, if not later you will be fighting with the sphincter … “. She gave a mischievous smile, then looked at me steadily and said, “No kidding, you have to take care of yourself.”
Discipline and wrestling
Vicente Fernández also had a tremendous discipline with money: he did not waste, it was administered correctly, he distributed in life and his last years he dedicated himself to enjoy.
You could also see him in a Rolls Royce in Los Angeles and have a plane that he enjoyed more in his presentations, because he tried to sleep at home. For this reason, every time a show ended, he would fly back to Guadalajara.
He was also very generous with those who had some kind of conflict. They say that the widow of a journalist who helped him in the beginning went to see him at his ranch to ask for a loan, and Don Vicente gave him an amount so that he would not worry for a few months.
His generosity comes from the cradle, because when he started making money he decided that of two pesos that went into his bag, one went to doña Cuquita (Refugio Abarca), his wife, and the other to his mother.
It was the same with his closest collaborators: he helped Felipe Arriaga and Federico Méndez, singer and producer, respectively.
They were part of his life, they were with him, the perfect trio, accomplices, friends and eternal companions with whom he lived trips, triumphs and shared successes such as ‘In what way I forget you’ or ‘For your damned love’, both creations of Méndez.
They were the brothers of ‘Chente’, until they were taken away from him with a difference of three days, in November 1988. He never spoke anything about both of them because of the pain of losing them.
One, for a murder never clarified by the authorities (Arriaga), and the other for a mysterious suicide in the studios of CBS, the record company of which she was the artistic director (Méndez), thanks to Vicente Fernández.
One afternoon, at the Blanquita Theater, an icon of Mexico City and the scene of many Vicente’s triumphs, I interviewed him to talk about another topic that was not the common one, and that’s how we ended up talking about wrestling.
He liked acrobatics, he enjoyed Santo, Cavernario Galindo and Black Shadow, and said it was a sport he liked. Although he was never a fan, the struggles were a nostalgic reference to when he had his first charro suit made for 300 pesos.
From the struggles in the arena, which he enjoyed so much, to the struggles of life, which he stopped without ever backing down, Don Vicente was a winner. No, not one of those who simply manage to caress the glory and then take refuge with nostalgia to dedicate themselves to sighing for those other times.
No, our great charro never took off his suits, in that unequivocal sign that the applause from the audience really lasted his entire life. And we keep clapping.
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Vicente Fernández, the star who will not fade as long as they do not stop clapping