Vicente Fernández, Mexican musical icon, is dead at 81

Vicente Fernández, one of Mexico's most famous and revered musicians, died Sunday morning at a hospital in Jalisco state, he family said. He was 81. Fernández had been hospitalized since a bad fall in August, and his health took a turn for the worse in recent months.

Fernández, called "Chente" by fans, is known as one of the great performers of Mexico's traditional ranchera music. His hits include "El Rey," "Lástima Que Seas Ajena," and the wistful "Volver Volver," which was also popular with homesick Mexicans living in the U.S. and elsewhere outside their country. Fernández gave his farewell performance to 85,000 fans from around the world at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium in in April 2016.

Fernández's widow, María del Refugio Abarca Villaseñor, and children, grandchildren, and hundreds of relatives and friends gathered for a public farewell at his Los Tres Potrillos ranch outside Guadalajara Sunday night. The song "Mexico Lindo" began the public funeral, The Associated Press reports, and his iconic charro hat was placed atop his coffin on the flower-strewn stage as mariachis performed. Fernández's private burial will take place Monday.

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Musicians from Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin to George Strait paid their respects on social media, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador celebrated Fernández a "a symbol of the ranchera music."

Vicente Fernández Gómez was born in 1940 in Huentitán El Alto, in Mexico's western Jalisco state. He spent most of his youth on his father's ranch. Fernández has sold more than 50 million records, appeared in more than 30 films, won three Grammys and nine Latin Grammys, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"It was an honor and a great pride to share with everyone a great musical career and give everything for the audience," the Fernández family said on his official Instagram account. "Thank you for continuing to applaud, thank you for continuing to sing." Along with his wife, Fernandez is survived by three children, including the performer Alejandro Fernández.

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