SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Grammy Award-winning musician Emilio Navaira, who helped take Tejano music from a Texas-based regional genre to international acclaim, has died at the age of 53, police and his publicist said on Tuesday.
Police in New Braunfels, about 40 miles (65 km) northeast of San Antonio, said they were called to Navaira’s home on Monday night after receiving a report of an unconscious man who was not breathing.
He was pronounced dead at a hospital. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack but police spokesman David Ferguson said an autopsy will be performed.
Navaira brought showmanship to Tejano music, along with a unique dance that became known as the “Emilio Shuffle.”
“He really was the king of Tejano music,” San Antonio disc jockey Randy Carroll said. “He was the male to Tejano music what Selena was as the female to Tejano music.”
“The musical family of Texas is in mourning,” Norma Duran of XimA Promotions, a music-oriented public relations firm, wrote in Spanish on Facebook. “Rest in Peace, Emilio Navaira. My condolences to all your family and fans.”
Navaira and singer Selena, who was murdered by a former fan club president in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1995, were credited with turning Tejano, a folk music popularized in the mid-20th century among Mexican-Americans mainly in South Texas, into a musical form heard by millions.
Navaira, known simply as Emilio, was born in San Antonio in 1962. He started singing with Tejano band David Lee Garza y Los Musicales in the late 1980s, before joining Selena for several Tejano hits.
Tejano music uses the accordion, brought to Texas by German settlers in the 19th century, and the beat of European polka music, and sets them to the form of traditional Mexican ballads, to create its distinct sound.
Navaira also had some cross-over success recording country music in English, with one of his better-known songs being “It’s Not the End of the World.”
Navaira was seriously injured in suburban Houston in 2008 when his tour bus crashed. Navaira had been driving the bus while he was drunk and also without a proper license.
Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Bill Trott