Remembering Jenni Rivera

Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera was killed in a plane crash over the weekend. She's remembered as a legendary vocalist, selling over 15 million albums, and earning three Latin Grammy nominations. Host Michel Martin pays tribute to Rivera with Jasmine Garsd, co-host of NPR's online music program, Alt.Latino.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally, we want to take a few minutes today to remember Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She died in a plane crash in Mexico on Sunday, flying from a concert to a show taping. She was 43 years old, a mother and a grandmother, and a major star on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Here's a bit of a popular song "La Gran Senora," where she tells her man's other woman to back off.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA GRAN SENORA")

JENNI RIVERA: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: To talk more about her life and legacy, we're joined by Jasmine Garsd. She's the co-host of NPR's ALT.LATINO. That's NPR's online program about Latin alternative music.

Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us...

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: ...under, unfortunately, sad circumstances. How did Jenni Rivera get her start music, and what is it that made her so popular?

GARSD: Well, Jenni Rivera really comes from a musical dynasty. Her father, Pedro Rivera, was a Mexican immigrant and, from scratch, he built a label called Cintas Acuario, which was - they produced narco corridos, the kings of narco corridos, which are drug ballads. And they made a name for themselves in this genre, which is, at once, so reviled and very popular, to be honest.

Jenni did not intend to go into music, and she had a very difficult adolescence. She got pregnant at 15. Her boyfriend was a vicious domestic abuser, and she wasn't going to go into music. And when she did, she debuted with "La Chacalosa." What happened was that there was this realization that there was a need for a female voice in a genre like Banda, which is a male-dominated genre. And Jenni became this artist that - everything Jenni touched turned to gold.

MARTIN: Talk more about that, Jasmine. I mean, she wasn't just a musical star. She also had a reality show and other stuff like that. Tell me more about that.

GARSD: Well, she was a very successful businesswoman. She had a fragrance, cosmetics, a clothing line. She had the most successful show on the Mun2 network, which was her bilingual reality show "I Love Jenni." She had just signed a pilot to be on ABC. So she was also a multicultural star.

MARTIN: Well, I kind of want to know, was she particularly gifted, or do you think she was kind of the right voice for the right time?

GARSD: I think both. I think she had a very beautiful, malleable voice. And the L.A. Times said Jenni Rivera sounded like no one else, because she sounded like a woman.

MARTIN: Is there anybody in line to pick up her mantle?

GARSD: I really think that I can't come up with an artist - a female artist that is going to pickup Jenni Rivera's mantle right now. She was that unique.

MARTIN: What's been the reaction in the world of music?

GARSD: Ah, I mean, shock. And she was really at this point in which not only was she at the top of her, as a Spanish-language, career, she was becoming a truly multicultural artist. She had just signed a pilot with ABC - so just shock on the whole cultural spectrum.

MARTIN: That was Jasmine Garsd, co-host of NPR's online program, ALT.LATINO. And it's unfortunate we have to talk about what a sad story today. But what if we go out on Jenni Rivera's song "Ya Lo Se" - which means?

GARSD: "I Already Know."

MARTIN: Jasmine Garsd is the co-host of NPR's online program, ALT.LATINO. Thanks again, Jasmine.

GARSD: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YA LO SE")

RIVERA: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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