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Tejano Music Legend Emilio Navaira Dies At 53

Emilio Navaira during the 4th Annual Latin Grammy Awards in Miami in 2003. The musician has died at the age of 53.
Michael Caulfield Archive
Emilio Navaira during the 4th Annual Latin Grammy Awards in Miami in 2003. The musician has died at the age of 53.

Emilio Navaira, a legend in the Tejano music scene, has died at 53.

Navaira was found unconscious at his home on Monday night, according to police in New Braunfels, Texas. Police say he appears to have died of natural causes.

The singer — known to many as simply "Emilio" — was famous in both the U.S. and Mexico. He was a Tejano superstar who shared the stage with Selena several times and became the most prominent figure in the genre after Selena's death.

"He was riding that wave of when Tejano was strong," A.B. Quintanilla, Selena's brother, told All Things Considered. "The ladies loved him, you know what I'm saying, and he packed the houses."

But he also found crossover success with English-language country songs, such as "It's Not the End of the World."

In 1995, Navaira told NPR that switching languages and genres wasn't much of a stretch.

"Being a Tejano singer, I've always sang country — so all my audience knows already. The audience that I have in the Latin world knows I've been doing this for a while," he said.

"It's more a surprise to the people who don't know Emilio as a Latin star — that all of a sudden, 'Where's this guy coming from? Where does he have this following?' "

Emilio's following is now in mourning: News 4 San Antonio has collected some of the remembrances on social media.

In 2008, Navaira was seriously injured in a bus crash; it was later determined he had been driving drunk at the time of the crash. Doctors initially were unsure whether Navaira would survive, based on the extent of his injuries.

But the singer recovered and returned to the stage.

He most recently performed on May 11 at a Mother's Day concert in Mexico.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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