Country Singer Freddy Fender Dies at 69
Mon, 16 Oct 2006 08:37:40
Los Lobos Photos
Freddy Fender, a country singer best-known for his '70s hits "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," died Saturday at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, succumbing to lung cancer and other health problems. He was 69.
Born Baldemar Huerta in the tiny farm town of San Benito, Texas, Fender is often credited as being one of the first Mexican-American performers to enjoy popular success with English-speaking audiences. He began his career in the 1950s, recording Spanish versions of popular hits by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley and Harry Belafonte. Eventually, he decided to adopt the stage name Freddy Fender in hopes of enjoying more success with "gringo" audiences, and scored his first crossover hit with the self-penned "Lonely Days and Lonely Nights," originally released in 1960. But a three-year jail sentence for marijuana possession derailed Fender's career, and he spent the next decade away from music, working back in his hometown as an auto mechanic.
His career was revived in 1974 by producer Huey P. Meaux, who persuaded Fender to return to music and adopt a more country and western sound. Fender's first attempt at this new format, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," shot to number one on both the country and pop charts in 1975, followed quickly by two more smash hits, a remake of "Lonely Days" and "Secret Love."
By the 1980s, Fender's focus had shifted towards acting; he played a memorable role in Robert Redford's The Milagro Beanfield War. He returned to music in the '90s, touring and recording with a Tex-Mex group called the Texas Tornadoes, which also featured legendary Texas musician Doug Sahm and accordion virtuoso Flaco Jimenez. Fender's work with the Tornados earned him first Grammy; he also won Grammys as a solo artist and for his work with Los Super Seven, a band he formed in the late '90s with members of Los Lobos.
Fender is survived by his wife Vangie and four children.
--The ARTISTdirect Staff