One day after singer Jenni Rivera was eulogized at a public memorial, dozens of music tributes throughout the U.S. and Latin America honoring the entertainer are surfacing and paying homage to the regional Mexican artist known for her sassy persona.
Many of those songs on sites such as YouTube are corridos-poetic narrative compositions that tell stories musically in a tradition that dates back to nearly two hundred years in ballads primarily heard in Mexico and the United States. Originally, these songs were written to tell the news of the day.
As people learned that Rivera and her entourage of 6 died in a plane crash in Mexico on Dec. 9-fans have taken to the Web, radio and television to learn more about what happened. Aspiring artists, and professionals alike, have also penned tribute music and, in some cases, booked studio time in hopes that their original compositions are picked up by radio.
For Grupo Dezatados, a YouTube video with more than 200,000 hits shows the band’s lead singer Ismael Hernandez in a truck with his band speaking about Rivera and how much she inspired them personally especially since they onceshared the same stage.
“This [song] is about paying her homage,” Hernandez says in the video. “It’s not about trying to become popular or anything. We simply wanted to sing something [in her honor].”
The unsigned Chicago-based band has in recent days played “Corrido de Jenni Rivera” at several nightclub performances where fans of the late entertainer have asked for repeats of the composition.
The tribute song is available on the band’s site for 99 cents, which Hernandez says is being sold as a way to help pay for the band’s studio time. The singer adds that since the composition was posted on their site days ago he hasn’t yet seen how well it has sold.
According to Hernandez, the band’s song has also been playing at some Spanish-language radio stations throughout the country and DJs are supporting it as well, while nightclub booking agents have started calling the band with renewed interest.
Media observer Agustin Gurza, and the author of The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings (Chicano Archives), says that while some of the new music is based on good intentions, it may also have a level of exploitation.
“Some of these songs may be truly inspired,” Gurza says. “If you’re a songwriter and really feel the tragedy, mourning the death of a star that you love maybe would inspire you on the spot.”
Los Angeles-based songwriter Ismael Gallegos, who has worked with some of the biggest names in Mexican music such as Pedro Fernandez, Los Tigres del Norte and Yolanda del Rio, recently wrote two Rivera tribute songs.
“I feel that if you’re going to do something [for Rivera] you have to do it with respect and something that’s well-recorded,” says Gallegos, adding that he and Rivera talked about collaborating years ago and the topic came up again earlier this year when he reconnected with her at a music festival.
At some point Gallegos says he would like someone to record his new songs titled “A Una Gran Señora” and “La Diva de la Banda.”
Miami Beach-based singer/songwriter LL Radio, who writes music mostly in the tropical and R&B genres, says he was inspired to write a tribute song after finding out about Rivera’s death. He met Rivera at the inaugural Billboard Mexican Music Awards in 2011 where she was given a special award.
“She died so young,” Radio, 23, says. “She encouraged me to work hard. I was hoping to see her again.”
Radio’s song, “Estoy Triste” (I am Sad), is a mesh of several genres including norteño, soul and R&B. The east coast-based artist, who is Puerto Rican and Jamaican, says that he hopes to officially release the song and possibly contribute proceeds to charity or the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation, a nonprofit the singer founded to help sick children.
“My song is about the moment I heard she was gone and how she was an inspiration to so many people,” Radio says. “My mother looked up to her as an example of how strong you have to be as a single mother with children.”
Gurza points out that while new songs about Rivera continue to surface, not all of them will be remembered in years to come like corridos from decades ago that were written about John F. Kennedy.
“I’m sure those corridos were heartfelt because JFK was very loved in Mexico,” Gurza says. “But you don’t remember those corridos. Those don’t live long or at least they haven’t. You just have to wonder if people are trying to score on the death which is kind of ghoulish.”