AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The man known as the king of Tejano music has died from a suspected heart attack. Emilio Navaira was 53. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this remembrance.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: This is what the radio station KXTN, Tejano and Proud 107.5, in San Antonio sounded like today.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: RIP Emilio, remembering Selena and Emilio together.
LIMBONG: People swapped stories and shared pictures of Emilio, as he was mostly known, thanking him for being a voice for Tejano music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMO LE HARE")
EMILIO NAVAIRA: (Singing in Spanish).
A B QUINTANILLA: He was riding that wave of when Tejano was strong, man.
LIMBONG: That's A.B. Quintanilla III, a musician and producer who played a few shows with Emilio. He's also the brother of the first huge Tejano music figure, Selena.
QUINTANILLA: Selena was in the forefront and he was right there with her.
LIMBONG: Quintanilla says Emilio was tons of fun on stage. And at the height of Tejano music's popularity in the '90s...
QUINTANILLA: ...The ladies loved him. You know what I'm saying? And he packed the houses.
LIMBONG: Emilio Navaira was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1962. That's where he started shaping his sound, playing music with his brother, Raul. 1995 - shortly after Selena died - is when he really started blending his music with other influences. He released an album called "Life Is Good," which is a country record and his first one with English songs...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD")
NAVAIRA: (Singing) So I guess it's not the end of the world, but it's a damn good start.
LIMBONG: ...That he also recorded in Spanish.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO ES EL FIN DEL MUNDO")
NAVAIRA: (Singing in Spanish).
LIMBONG: He talked to NPR back then about how similar country and Tejano music are.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
NAVAIRA: Well, you know, there's quite a resemblance -- a relationship, as you can say, between the two. I do Tejano polka, which is almost like a country two-step. And doing it around Texas, they almost dance it the same. So there's quite a relationship, and I'm glad that I can do both. And I'm going to give it my best shot.
(SOUNDBITE OF EMILIO NAVAIRA SONG)
LIMBONG: In 2008, he was in a bad bus crash. He was driving drunk on a Texas highway when he hit traffic barrels and went through the window. Fans held vigils for him. He eventually pulled through and continued playing music. Emilio Navaira leaves behind two sons, who are also musicians. Here's A.B. Quintanilla again.
QUINTANILLA: I think through his kids, his legacy will live on.
LIMBONG: And of course through Emilio Navaira's own recordings. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SENSACIONES")
NAVAIRA: (Singing in Spanish).
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