Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Freddy Fender gone; who to follow?

Hispanic country music superstars few and far between

Fans worldwide mourned the October 14 passing of musician Freddy Fender, after his arduous struggle with lung cancer. He leaves a legacy of genre-busting chart-toppers including "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," a bilingual hit on both country and pop radio.

In a press release, Recording Academy Presidident Niel Portnow said, "As one of the few Hispanic stars in country music, Freddy Fender broke down barriers through his song writing, his guitar playing and his passion for creating and performing music. Fender approached his work in country and rockabilly with a Latin sensibility that made him a unique talent. Our sympathy goes out to his family, his friends and to the millions of fans who always will remember the indelible mark he has made on our culture."

Fender's success in country music has been nearly impossible for Hispanic artists to duplicate. Especially in the last few years, country music industry experts have bemoaned the lack of modern Hispanic superstar power (see 2005 story here and 2006 story here).

Hispanic country music singers have made their mark in the Nashville-based country music TV competition "Nashville Star," (story here), but this season's industry awards shows reveal that the missing Hispanic superstars are still missing. Last night, the 2006 ASCAP Country Music Awards at Ryman Auditorium named no Hispanic winners. The nominees for the 40th annual CMA Awards include no Hispanic artists. And there are no country artists among the nominees for the 7th Annual Latin Grammys. There is not even a country music category at the Latin Grammys, unless you include the "Ranchero" style of Mexican music, which often features cowboy hats.

At a time when politics are putting Hispanics on the defensive, Hispanic entertainers are offering hope and diversion to the nation's biggest minority. Although there can be only one Freddy Fender, aspiring country music stars might take a note from Fender's bright smile, humor, and passion for music in their quest for center stage.

Listen to a snippet of "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" on

Freddy Fender

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