âHave you heard of Selena Quintanilla? my Los Angeles Times editor-in-chief Bob Hilburn asked me on the morning of March 31, 1995.
“Do you mean Selena?” I said. He nodded, before breaking the news to me: she had been murdered by Yolanda SaldÃvar, the president of his fan club.
You know the rest of the story: everyone in Latin was shocked, everyone felt the aftershocks, the murderer was jailed for life, and yet Selena is still alive.
She lives in the memory of countless little girls who weren’t even alive in the 90s but who still want to be like her. She lives in the books and in a big movie, she lives in her music, and in the memories of those who have seen her perform live. She was beautiful but not intimidating, larger than life but accessible; his band’s music was essentially stale, cumbia-flavored commercial pop from Tejano, but his vocals and most importantly his timing and stage presence brought out the best of his band and turned it into a powerhouse. And that smileâ¦ as genuine as herself. Even before her death, her truly humble and friendly nature was notorious among those in the industry who were fortunate enough to meet her.
I only spoke to him once, under unusual circumstances. She called me on a Saturday while I was at a party in Los Angeles to talk about her upcoming show at the Universal Amphitheater in LA (now Gibson Amphitheater). But she felt so bad for “bothering” me and spent the whole conversation apologizing. I kept telling her everything was fine, but she kept telling me, in the softest voice, to call her on Sunday and give me all her numbers including her cell phone. She didn’t look like a woman about to fill a 6,000-seat amphitheater; she was an egoless, sweet, intelligent and talented girl from South Texas.
For some reason we never spoke again, but I saw his show and was blown away by his charm and joy. The film Selena (1997), which made Jennifer LÃ³pez a superstar, was partly shot in San Antonio, a town Selena knew well. âSan Antonio was very special to us,â Abraham Quintanilla, Selena’s father, told me last week. “She had a lot of fans there, and that’s where she saw Laura Canales the first time we went.”
Canales, who died in 2005, was the undisputed queen of Tejano when 10-year-old Selena opened for her in the market square in 1981.
âSelena was so thrilled,â Quintanilla said. âOh, daddy, I’m so excited! She would say. âI’m going to play with Laura! Laura had arrived in a white limo, and for the rest of her life, every time Selena saw a white limo, she would say, âThis is Laura. She never forgot her. No one knew that this 10-year-old would not receive the crown of Canales until a few years later.
Selena exploded onto the national scene in the early ’90s. Lookalike contests began immediately and continue to this day. The most recent winner is 19-year-old Ilyssa SÃ¡enz from Hebbronville. She won the 2010 Telefutura Buscando a la Doble de Selena (In Search of Selena’s Double), priced at $ 10,000, and has been seen by over two million viewers. The show broke network records, another testament to Selena’s enduring power, and SÃ¡enz is already recording her debut album under Quintanilla production.
While most of Selena’s best-known music is owned by EMI and has been re-released by EMI, her dad has a juicy surprise up his sleeve.
âI own five Selena pre-NDE masters,â Quintanilla said. âWhile we are talking we have selected 10 songs and we are removing the vocals from the original recordings and AB [Quintanilla III, Selena’s brother and former bandmember] makes new music, updates it. We’ve already finished one, and it looks like Selena recorded it this morning.
The vocal tracks were recorded when Selena was 14, 15 and 16, and the ânewâ album is due out later this year or early 2012.
âMaybe March 2012? ” I ask.
âMaybe,â Quintanilla said. âBut first: we have to finish the remaining nine songs. Then we will see.
With or without these new songs, Selena’s legacy is secure: She has sold over 21 million albums and recorded seven number one hits. His posthumous album, Dreaming of you, debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 – surpassed only by Michael Jackson HISTORY: Past, present and future, Book I. Not bad for a girl born in Lake Jackson and raised in Corpus Christi who never felt superior to her fans.