Just a few weeks ago while traveling in my car; I heard the song again, “Dreaming of You” by Selena. Whenever I hear that song it brings about feelings of sadness. So many memories! Initially there is the pain of losing someone way before we could see them really fly. The second feelings I experience are the pain for family members. Most people feel hurt at the loss of a celebrity, especially those that die young and in this case tragically. However, Selena’s death produced grief for a very large fan base, and some who were not even fans at the time. Why did so many feel such pain? Why is there still a sense of loss? Maybe it was because of the fantastic movie starring Jennifer Lopez that gave all of us the world over her short, successful life story. I think that the movie was a major factor in making so many “feel” her death as personal. Perhaps another factor is the way that Selena lost her life. Her death was unbelievably tragic as she was murdered by the president of her fan club.
To this day we really don’t understand why Yolanda Saldivar fired the fatal shot that killed the person she claimed she loved. The one fact discovered was Saldivar embezzled money from the fan club and Selena’s father decided to fire her. That was possibly the motive, but many are fired every day for criminal acts at their place of employment without retaliating in murder. Notwithstanding the reason, Selena was taken away from music fans before her twenty-fourth birthday. In order to truly understand the pain felt by family and fans alike we need to go back to Selena’s humble beginnings.
Selena was born in Lake Jackson, Texas, as the youngest of three children born to a Mexican American father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. and a half-Cherokee Native American mother, Marcella Ofelia (née Samora). When she was nine years old, her father launched a vocal group consisting of several of his children, Selena y Los Dinos. They initially performed at a restaurant the family operated, but went bankrupt soon thereafter. They moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where they performed wherever they could – street corners, weddings, quinceañeras, and fairs. Selena and her family performed Tejano music or Tex-Mex music. Texan-Mexican music is the name given to various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Mexican-American populations of Central and Southern Texas. Selena’s popularity grew and also the demands for her performance and travel. At the 1987 Tejano Music Awards, Selena won Best Female Vocalist, an award she would dominate for the rest of her life. In 1989, José Behar, the former head of Sony Music Latin, signed Selena with Capitol/EMI. Behar later explained signed her because he thought he had discovered the next Gloria Estefan. In 1988, she met Chris Pérez, who had his own band. Two years later, the Quintanilla family hired him to play in Selena’s band and they began dating. At first her father opposed their relationship and went as far as firing Pérez from the band. He eventually came to accept the relationship. On April 2, 1992, Selena and Pérez were married.
Selena’s popularity soared. She was named the “top Latin artist of the ’90s” and “Best selling Latin artist of the decade” by Billboard for her fourteen top-ten singles in the Top Latin Songs chart, including seven number-one hits. Unexpectedly, Selena was murdered March 31, 1995. That summer, July 18, 1995, Selena’s album Dreaming of You, a combination of Spanish-language songs and new English-language tracks, debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200. On its release date, the album sold over 175,000 copies, a record for a female pop singer, and it sold two million copies in its first year. Dreaming of You sold more than 330,000 copies in its first week. The album was number 75 in the List of BMG Music Club’s top selling albums in the United States. The song “Dreaming of You” was certified 35× Platinum (Latin field) by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Many may feel that the album and songs would not nearly have sold as well if Selena was alive. However, the young Tejano singer was truly on the rise and the plan was for her to crossover to the mainstream audience just as Gloria Estefan, Julio Eglesias and others had already accomplished successfully. In addition, Selena’s music is still playing regularly on radio around the world, showing further proof she more than likely would still be very popular today. Imagine if Selena was alive she would be forty-two years old and possibly still performing and recording, although music career longevity is extremely difficult to predict.
In March of 2012, the world learned about the true spirit of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez through the words of her widower, guitarist Chris Perez. Now, more than a year after the initial release of the book, “To Selena, With Love” has being re-released as a commemorative edition. As reported in the November 28th, 2013 Huff Post Latino Voices, “The latest edition of the book features photos that Selena’s husband Chris Perez has never before released. Consistent with the first publication of the book and the rest of the photos throughout, these new images give us a rare glimpse into the extremely intimate and private moments that Selena shared with her husband and the rest of her family“. Selena’s husband Chris Perez appropriately closed the books with these words: “We watched her grow up and saw her star rise. Selena represented the idea that it is possible to go places that most of us only dream about. Selena, I’m still dreaming of you.”