Singer Jenni Rivera Presumed Dead In Plane Crash

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Authorities in Mexico say there are no signs of survivors in the wreckage of a plane that's believed to have been carrying a major star in Mexican-American music. Jenni Rivera was traveling from a concert in Mexico when her plane disappeared from radar early Sunday morning.


A major Mexican-American reality TV and music star is dead after a plane crash in Mexico yesterday. Jenni Rivera was in Mexico flying from one concert to another when the private plane she was on lost contact with air traffic controllers. Mexican authorities have identified what appears to be the wreckage of the plane and there are no signs of any survivors.

Rivera was born here in southern California to a family that is a force in the traditional banda style of music that's popular along the border and beyond. NPR's Mandalit del Barco is with us to talk more about this.

And this is very sad news for a lot of her fans. I gather there's been a lot of reaction to Rivera's death.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: That's right, Renee. You know, Jenni Rivera was a huge star in the U.S. and Mexico. She had sold more than 15 million albums. She was an award winner. You know, she was also a 43-year-old mother of five and a grandmother and was known as the diva of banda music, a sort of brass polka sound that started in Sinaloa in northern Mexico.

One of her best known songs is "La Gran Senora" - the great lady. It's a woman-to-woman message to a mistress to back off from her man.


JENNI RIVERA: (Singing in foreign language)

MONTAGNE: And I gather beyond her music, Rivera's personal life did get a lot of attention, too.

BARCO: Well, yes. On the mic and on TV, Jenni Rivera was very open about her problems, including being divorced, which she recently announced she would be for the third time. And watching the soap opera of Jenni Rivera's life was part of her popularity in the U.S. and in Mexico.

MONTAGNE: And Jenni Rivera found stardom later than many musicians. I mean, she had started a family. But she did have a deep family tradition to draw on. Tell us about that.

BARCO: Well, you know, she was born in Long Beach, California, and she was just a sophomore in high school when she had the first of her five children. But Jenni Rivera also comes from a musical dynasty. Her father, Pedro Rivera, started out selling mix tapes in the swap meets around Long Beach. And it was there that his kids grew up listening and learning as Pedro became a producer of narco corridos - ballads glorifying narco traffickers, drug lords in Mexico.

Pedro started a record company, Cintos Acuario. And that's where Jenni first worked and developed her singing chops, along with her four brothers. Jenni was not the only famous Rivera. Her brother Lupillo is also a huge superstar singer of regional Mexican music in the U.S. and in Mexico. But it was Jenni who got her own reality show on Telemundo's Mun2.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Spanish)

BARCO: For three seasons of "I Love Jenni," the cameras followed her as she raised her family, she got remarried and she went on tour in the U.S. and Mexico. Her antics were such a hit that Mun2 even gave her eldest daughter, Chiquis, her own spinoff TV show. And when she died Jenni Rivera was also set to take another big step. She was developing a show for ABC, a comedy about a single mother, a businesswoman much like herself.

MONTAGNE: And, again, singer Jenni Rivera died at the age of 43 in a plane crash in Mexico yesterday. NPR's Mandalit del Barco, thanks very much.

BARCO: Thank you, Renee.


RIVERA: (Singing in Spanish)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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