Top Latin Artists of the Year 2011
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Selena: A Life Remembered (Part 2)
~Continued from Part 1~
As Selena’s popularity grew placing additional demands on the band (e.g. travel), Abraham removed Selena from the 8th grade, drawing immediate unwarranted criticism. Some accused him of violating Child Labor laws while others warned that he was ruining his kids. “They’ll be surrounded by drinking and drugs” and “it’s going to have an effect on them,” the critics incorrectly predicted.
Despite the skeptics, Selena remained unaffected. She continued to have fun and enjoy singing. She kept her down-to-earth personality and refused to snub anyone, believing that “if you treat people good, it [will] come back” in the end. Accordingly, Selena always maintained a great repertoire with her fans and audience. At the same time, she also kept up with her academics and earned a G.E.D. from a Chicago-based Correspondence School at 17.
As Selena was growing into a star, her brother, A.B. III was becoming an accomplished songwriter and producer, after originally taking it up to supply his youngest sister with the quality, original material that the band lacked. One of his first songs, “Dame Un Beso” enjoyed moderate success. Before long, A.B. III supplanted his father as the band’s leading songwriter. In addition, Ricky Vela, another band member also assisted with music composition.
When the band’s second album, “Alpha” was released, it brought Selena her first music honors. She won “Female Vocalist of the Year” at the 1987 West Texas Hispanic Music Awards and KFLZ Awards ceremonies and was voted “Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Performer of the Year” at the Tejano Music Awards. This recognition introduced Selena to two influential people: Rick Trevino, founder of the Tejano Music Awards and Johnny Canales, a television personality on one of the top-rated Spanish shows. Their efforts gave Selena much needed publicity, expanding the horizons for “Selena Y Los Dinos.”
Two more albums, “Preciosa” and “Dulce Amor” were released in 1988 earning Selena greater recognition. With album sales exceeding 20,000, Selena’s name began to spread beyond Texas. Not surprisingly, Selena was a finalist for “Female Vocalist of the Year” for 1988 and “Terco Corazon” and A.B. III were nominated for “Single of the Year” and “Songwriter of the Year,” respectively, at the Tejano Music Awards.
Despite Selena’s growing fame, the Quintanillas’ lifestyle had not changed much. They continued to live on beans and hamburgers and shared just about everything. As a result, they had “Nobody You Know” written at the top of the band’s bus, “Big Bertha’s” front windshield.
Their fortunes, though, changed dramatically when Selena was signed by Jose Behar, the former head of Sony’s Latin music division and creator of the Capitol/EMI Latin label in 1989. The signing came about when Behar and a friend, Mario Ruiz, who became President of EMI Mexico attended the 1989 Tejano Music Awards searching for new talent and discovered Selena. The events went as follows according to the account by Jose Behar:
“…We were standing at the back of the auditorium when we saw her. Mario and I looked at each other like, ‘Wow. This is special.'”
“…I said, ‘It’s interesting. Women don’t sell in the Tejano market.’ And they really hadn’t. Yet I said to myself, ‘This is the crossover act I’m looking for.”
Afterwards, Behar, believing that he had found the next Gloria Estefan, a popular and successful crossover Latin artist went backstage and met and signed Selena after talking to her father. At the time, Behar never imagined how many records Selena would eventually sell.
Despite her signing with Capitol/EMI Latin and her taking “Female Vocalist of the Year” honors at the 1989 and 1990 Tejano Music Awards, and also “Female Entertainer of the Year” at the 1990 Tejano Music Awards, Selena’s first few new releases did little better than her previous ones. However, another breakthrough came in 1991 when she was paired with Alvaro Torres in “Buenos Amigos.” Their video soared to #1 on the Billboard Latin Tracks Chart giving Selena national exposure. An appearance on “Donde Quiero Que Estes” with the Barrio Boyzz, an immensely popular Latin band further enhanced Selena’s rising stature, enabling her to enter the international Latin market with her solo hits, “La Carcacha” and “Como La Flor.”
Johnny Canales then helped make Selena an instant Celebrity in Mexico leading to an offer star in a leading role in a Mexican Soap opera, which she turned down because of its steamy scenes. Though determined to make it big, Selena wasn’t about to sacrifice her principles. She valued her appeal to her broad audience that consisted of young children and grandparents alike.
Performing in skin-tight pants, low-cut bustiers, and shiny outfits was her limit. Unlike many others, Selena did not need to forego her morals for fame. Her natural-born talent was sufficient. In addition, when Johnny Canales compared Selena to Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Janet Jackson, all pop stars, he declared, “I’d say [Selena] was like those people, but better. Those people never sang Tejano. She could do what they do, but it would be hard for them to do what she does.”
Also during this time, the Los Dinos Band was expanding, providing Selena with some of her happiest moments. Pete Astudillo, a Laredo, Texas native and talented artist joined in 1989. Together, he and Selena went on to perform hit duets like “Yo Te Amo” and “Amame, Quiereme.” Accordingly the pair were twice nominated for “Vocal Duo of the Year” at the Tejano Music Awards.
A second great addition was Chris Perez, who briefly joined Los Dinos in 1988, left a year later to try it on his own, and then returned in 1990. Chris was a talented guitarist who eventually became Selena’s husband. They were married on April 2, 1992.
Although Selena’s father initially opposed the marriage, he soon viewed Chris as “a son.” Afterwards, Selena and Chris shared a nearby house, with her parents living next door in one house and her brother, A.B. III and his wife and children in another. Between the three houses there were nine dogs, five of which belonged to Selena, an avid animal lover. Later the pair bought a piece of land a little further away with plans to build a larger house to start a family and run a small farm. Prior to her death, Selena had already picked out the furniture.
As Selena’s career took off, she released two hit albums: “Ven Conmigo” featuring the hit song “Baila Esta Cumbia” in 1990 and “Entre A Mi Mundo” featuring the hit songs “La Carcacha” and “Como La Flor” in 1992. The great success of these albums completed Selena’s transformation from “unknown” to “star.” Then a show featuring Selena, La Mafia, and Emilia Navaira at the Summit in Houston in the summer of 1991 drew more than 9000 people. Next followed “Selena Live” in 1993, which gave the young singer her first Grammy along with three Tejano Awards, opening the door to mainstream pop.
After four years of attempts, Jim Behar, using Selena’s soaring popularity and sales to their advantage, finally convinced EMI’s pop division to give her the crossover chance she had been dreaming of. Prior to 1993, Behar had faced repeated setbacks and had to start over each time when key executives left the Company. As one EMI executive, Nancy Brennan, Vice President of Artist and Repertoire summarized, “All he [Behar] ever talked about was Selena. He was like a broken record, ‘Selena, Selena…'”
Brennan was exposed to Selena when she attended a Billboard Latin Music Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada to see Jon Secada, an immensely popular EMI artist. There, Selena’s opening made a lasting impression. By December 1993, Selena had been signed by EMI’s SBK subsidiary to begin her crossover album, which took a year-and-a-half to produce due to the tedious effort of finding the right songs and producers.
The 1994 “Amor Prohibido” success also added to the crossover delays since Selena was requested to appear everywhere. Nancy Brennan recounted one such episode when had been forced to postpone a recording session: “This is the first time I have ever made a debut album by an artist who was too busy to record for me. How can you tell someone, ‘No I don’t want you to play the Astrodome for 60,000 people; I want you to work on your record.’ Everyone wants her.”
The “Amor Prohibido” album featuring four #1 Latin Singles (title track “Amor Prohibido” “No Me Queda Mas,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” and “Fotos Y Recuerdos” launched Selena’s greatest year to date. When “Amor Prohibido” came out, it promptly replaced Gloria Estefan’s “Mi Tierra” at #1 on Billboard’s Latin Tracks Charts and even made the top 200 on Billboard’s Pop Charts. It led to six awards at the Tejano Music Awards ceremony attended by more than 45,000 people – “Female Entertainer of the Year,” “Female Vocalist of the Year,” “Orchestra Album of the Year,” Record of the Year,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” “Song of the Year,” and “Techno Cumbia, “Crossover Song of the Year.” More than 400,000 copies had sold at the time of Selena’s death less than a year after its release.
Selena also realized two more dreams in 1994. First, she opened a boutique/salon in Corpus Christi called “Selena Etc.” Since childhood, Selena had dreamed of designing clothing and jewelry. Second, she played a bit-role “Don Juan DeMarco,” a film released in early 1995 that starred Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp and offered the potential of leading to greater and perhaps leading roles. Acting had been a recent dream of Selena’s.
With the impending release of Selena’s cross-over album, “Dreaming of You,” her wide-spread fame and rocketing demand, a million-dollar record deal, a Grammy Award,
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