How Freddy Fender’s Life and Music Were Cut Short by Lung Cancer

Freddy Fender was a legendary singer-songwriter who blended country, rock, swamp pop and Tex-Mex styles in his music. He was one of the few Hispanic stars in country music, and his songs such as “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” topped the charts in the 1970s. However, his life and career were also marked by hardships, struggles and tragedies, including his battle with lung cancer that ultimately claimed his life in 2006. In this article, we will explore the cause of death of Freddy Fender, as well as his remarkable legacy and influence.

Freddy Fender’s Early Years and Rise to Fame

Freddy Fender was born as Baldemar Garza Huerta on June 4, 1937, in San Benito, Texas, to a family of migrant laborers. He showed an early interest in music and performed on the radio at age 10. He dropped out of high school at 16 and joined the Marine Corps, where he served for three years. He returned to Texas and started playing in nightclubs and bars, mostly to Latino audiences. He adopted the stage name Freddy Fender in 1958, taking the name from the guitar and amplifier brand, and Freddy for its alliteration and appeal to “gringos”. He also recorded Spanish versions of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell”, which were popular in Mexico and South America.

In 1959, he recorded his own song “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”, which became a hit. However, his career was interrupted by legal troubles in 1960, when he was arrested for marijuana possession in Louisiana and sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled after three years, thanks to the intervention of Governor Jimmie Davis, who was also a singer. However, he was banned from performing music as a condition of his parole. He moved to New Orleans and worked as a mechanic, until his parole ended in 1965.

He tried to revive his music career, but found little success until he met Huey P. Meaux, a record producer who convinced him to switch to country music while retaining his Hispanic roots. In 1974, he recorded “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”, which was rejected by major labels and released on Meaux’s independent label Crazy Cajun. The song became a surprise hit in 1975, reaching number one on both the country and pop charts. Fender became an overnight star at the age of 38. He followed up with another number one hit, a re-recorded version of “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”. He also recorded other country hits such as “Secret Love”, “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”, “Living It Down” and “The Rains Came”. He won the Academy of Country Music’s best new artist award in 1975.

Freddy Fender’s Health Problems and Death

Freddy Fender’s success continued throughout the late 1970s, but he also faced personal challenges. He struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, which affected his health and relationships. He divorced his first wife Evangelina (Vangie) Muniz in 1980, after 25 years of marriage. He remarried her in 1982, after undergoing rehabilitation. He also had four children with her: Baldemar Jr., Tammy, Danny and Marla.

In the early 1980s, his popularity began to decline. His last chart hit was “Chokin’ Kind” in 1983. He focused on acting, appearing in movies such as The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), directed by Robert Redford. He also formed a supergroup called The Texas Tornados with Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez in 1990. They won two Grammy Awards for their albums Texas Tornados (1990) and Los Super Seven (1998). He also released solo albums such as La Musica de Baldemar Huerta (2002), which won him another Grammy Award for best Latin pop album.

However, his health deteriorated over the years. He suffered from hepatitis C, which damaged his liver. He received a liver transplant in 2004. He also had diabetes, which affected his kidneys. He received a kidney transplant from his daughter Marla in 2002. In early 2006, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but the cancer spread to other organs. He decided to stop treatment and spend his final days at home with his family.

He died on October 14, 2006, at the age of 69, in Corpus Christi, Texas. His death was caused by lung cancer complications. He was buried in his hometown of San Benito, Texas, where a museum and a park are dedicated to his memory.

Freddy Fender’s Legacy and Influence

Freddy Fender was a pioneer and an icon of Tejano music, a genre that blends Mexican and American musical influences. He was one of the first Hispanic artists to cross over to the mainstream country and pop markets, paving the way for others such as Selena, Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys. He was also a versatile and talented singer-songwriter, who could sing in English and Spanish, and in different styles such as country, rock, blues and swamp pop. He was known for his distinctive voice, which expressed emotion and soul.

He was also a cultural ambassador, who celebrated his Mexican-American heritage and promoted bilingualism and biculturalism. He was proud of his roots and often sang songs in Spanish or with Spanish phrases. He was honored by several organizations and institutions for his contributions to music and society. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, after being nominated by then Texas governor George W. Bush. He was also inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 1999, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and the South Texas Music Walk of Fame in 2008.

Freddy Fender’s music lives on through his recordings, which have been reissued and remastered over the years. His songs have also been covered by many artists, such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos, The Mavericks and Clay Walker. His legacy is also carried on by his family, who have continued to perform and record music. His son Baldemar Jr. is a guitarist who has played with The Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven. His daughter Tammy is a singer who has released several albums. His daughter Marla is also a singer who has performed with her father and other artists.

Freddy Fender was a remarkable musician who overcame many obstacles and achieved great success. He touched the hearts of millions of fans with his songs and his personality. He left behind a rich and diverse body of work that reflects his life and his culture. He was a true legend of Tejano music and American music in general.

Doms Desk

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