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Selena: 1971-1995: Vocalist

Sang At Family Restaurant

Abraham Quintanilla spotted his daughter's musical talents when she was six years old and envisaged a show-business career for her, sometimes bringing her on stage to perform at the family restaurant. Economic hardship accelerated her career, however, for the recession of the early 1980s hit the Quintanillas (and Texans in general) especially hard. The restaurant closed, and at times Selena became a key family breadwinner. "We were literally doing it to put food on the table," she told Texas Monthly. Selena dropped out of school, but later earned a high school diploma through correspondence studies.

Those early performances around Houston often featured country music, but after the Quintanillas moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, Selena began to focus on the musical style known as tejano. Tejano music is a hybrid form whose musical diversity—encompassing traditional Mexican ballads, rock, R&B, polka, country, and even contemporary styles such as hip-hop and techno—reflected the diversity of influences present in modern Mexican-American culture. All of those styles were reflected in Selena's body of recorded work, which began with a series of albums recorded for a small independent label in Texas.

At a Glance . . .

Born Selena Quintanilla on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, TX; Died on March 31, 1995, in Corpus Christi, TX; daughter of Abraham and Marcella Quintanilla; married guitarist Chris Pérez, 1992.

Career: Began performing with siblings as Selena y Los Dinos in late 1970s; recorded for small regional labels, 1980s; signed to EMI Latin label, 1989; released debut album Selena, 1989; released Selena Live, 1993; established retail and clothing marketing venture, Selena Inc., 1994; recorded first album primarily in English, Dreaming of You, 1995.

Selected awards: Tejano Music Awards for best female vocalist and performer of the year, 1987; Grammy award for Best Mexican American album, 1993, for Selena Live; Grammy nomination, 1995, for Amor prohibido; Tejano Music Awards, 1995, for Song of the Year ("Bidi Bidi Bom Bom"), best female entertainer, best female vocalist, album of the year (for Amor prohibido), tejano crossover song, and record of the year.

Los Dinos featured Selena's brother, Abraham, on bass; he also composed many of Selena's songs. Her sister, Suzette, played drums, and the band's lead guitarist was Chris Pérez, whom Selena married in 1992. The elder Abraham Quintanilla served as manager. Gradually Selena's audiences grew in size, and she began to appear in the large ballrooms that were the central venues of tejano and northern Mexican musical performances. In 1987 Selena, only 15 years old, won Female Vocalist of the Year and Performer of the Year honors at the annual Tejano Music Awards.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographySelena: 1971-1995: Vocalist Biography - Sang At Family Restaurant, Signed To Emi Latin, Confronted Fan Club President