Last Friday, supermarket chain H-E-B’s website crashed due to high traffic. The traffic was caused by fan fury over a $2 shopping bag with a picture of the lat Tejano superstar, Selena Quintanilla. Selena was murdered in 1995 by the president of her fan club and employee, but she is still a favorite among those who love Latin diaspora music. H-E-B sold out of the limited edition bags emblazoned with the words, “Queen of Cumbia” within hours and if past behavior is indeed a predictor of future behavior, we anticipate that today’s release of The Life of Selena/La Vida De Selena (Los Libros, Bilingual Edition), will see the same. The book, written in both English and Spanish, is already a #1 Amazon bestseller in Children’s Performing Arts Biographies and is sure to become a favorite of adult collectors and fans, alike. Read this piece from October 17th, 2017 about the singer Selena, and other women who have gone on to inspire so many.
Selena Quintanilla was known as the Queen of Tejano music when her life was tragically cut short in 1995. Murdered by a fan and one-time confidant, Selena, who died at age 23, is now revered as a legend and her fan base has grown exponentially in the 22 years since her death.
Today, Google honored Selena with her own animated Google Doodle and exhibit on what is the anniversary of the release of her first solo album. Released in 1989, Selena, is a Tejano classic. Suzette Quintanilla, Selena’s sister, raved about the celebration saying, “Selena would be so excited. It’s such an honor.”
The Doodle was designed by Perla Campos, Global Marketing Lead for Google Doodles who looked to Selena as a role model and features one of Selena’s most popular tunes, “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Selena’s family was very much involved in giving Campos information and insight and contributing to the full exhibit which is available on Google Arts & Culture.
Selena is one of many female singers to have been taken from us prematurely, yet whose legacy “grows with time,” according to Campos. Like Selena, Aaliyah, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Jenni Rivera, Tammi Terrell and Amy Winehouse all died young and tragically, but their legacies remain and their impact on popular music past and present are undeniable. As told by family, friends, collaborators and friends, these books are worthwhile reads that give readers a very intimate glimpse into the lives of six very remarkable and talented women.
To Selena, with Love: Commemorative Edition by Chris Perez (2013)
Penned by Selena’s husband and guitar player, Chris Perez, To Selena is a heartfelt love story about what was and sorrow over what could have been. Perez tells a powerful story of his time with his late wife and her close-knit family in Texas. This touching memoir is full of details about who Selena was a a person, the things and people she loved. Chris clears up some of the misconceptions about Selena’s life and about her death. He doesn’t delve into the scandal and gives additional details about her life and their story as a couple that were not covered in the 1997 film that starred actress/singer Jennifer Lopez.
The Life of/La Vida De Selena, by Patty Rodrigeuz, Ariana Stein, Citlali Reyes (2018)
Coming out this month is The Life of/La Vida De Selena, a bilingual biography of the singer, that’s perfect for children. The fantastically illustrated book starts at the beginning of Selena’s career, where she sang with her family’s band, eventually moving on to become an award-winning singer. Readers will get to learn about her life, her family, and even her favorite food. The book is bilingual, as well – perfect for those learning both Spanish and English.
Unbreakeable: My Story, My Way by Jenni Rivera (2013)
This is the official autobiography of Spanish- language singer Jenni Rivera who died on December 9, 2012 in a plane crash. Here, Rivera shares with her fans her personal struggles as a victim of domestic violence, divorce, self-esteem, sexual abuse and raising her children as a single mother. Of her life, Rivera writes, “I am a woman like any other, and ugly things happen to me like any other woman. The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up.”Unbreakable, or Inquenbrantable in Spanish, was turned into a miniseries starring Angélica Celaya as an adult Jenni Rivera. Mariposa de Barrio(“Neighborhood Butterfly”) airs on Telemundo. Jenni Rivera’s Estate also release a book titled Jenni Vive: Unforgettable Baby! A Life in Pictures/Su Vida En Fotos (English and Spanish Edition) in 2015.
Lisa Lopes: The Life of a Supernova by Nancy Krulik (2002)
At the height of their career in the 1990s. TLC was one of the most successful girl groups of all time making them as successful as Diana Ross & The Supremes. With music that addressed friendship, safe sex, AIDS, and other social ills, TLC— best known for their 1994 song “Waterfalls,” laid the foundation for girl groups that followed like Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child (the group that birthed Beyonce) and Fifth Harmony. After bankruptcy and other problems with record labels and management, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, the “L” in TLC, left the group for a solo career and a more serene state of being. She was killed in 2002, in a car accident, but not before permanently leaving her mark on the music industry. Rappers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B cite Left Eye as their inspiration. Krulik’s book gives readers the highs and lows of this remarkable woman who, through incredible odds, lived life on top of the world– nothing more, nothing less.
Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by Chirstopher John Farley (2013)
Published first in 2001, Farley’s book, Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, was reprinted in 2013 and served as the primary source for the 2014 Lifetime made-for-TV film. While the film was poorly received, the book has fared better over time. Aaliyah Dana Haughton was that rare gem in music: an artist who successfully made the transition from singer to actress starring in films like Romeo Must Die (co-starring Jet Li) and Queen of the Damned. She was cast as the female lead in the Matrixsequels. Pre-production had begun and Aaliyah was about to release the second single from her third album when tragedy struck: she, and eight others perished when their commuter flight crashed. The role was recast with Nona Gaye (daughter of music legend Marvin Gaye) replacing Aaliyah after her family gave their blessing. Aaliyah began her career as the young protege of R. Kelly, who married her when she was just 15. Kelly was near 30. Much of Aaliyah’s story is marred by the Kelly marriage and the tragedy of her death, but Farley does give readers rare insight into how gracious and kind Aaliyah was. In mentioning her influence in the hip-hop soul genre, Farley shows how much Aaliyah was respected by her peers in the industry for her work ethic and perseverance. Reviews vary, but for people just getting to know Aaliyah, it is a worthwhile read.
My Sister Tommie: The Real Tammi Terrell by Ludie Montgomery and Vickie Wright (2005)
In 2009, I lost a friend to brain cancer and was feeling pretty sad when my birthday rolled around the next year. Instead of going out and celebrating with friends, I stayed at home and watched TV One‘s award-winning program Unsung. As a child, I heard stories about Tammi Terrell. I was very familiar with her duets with Marvin Gaye: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” In fact, my favorite song of all time is a duet Marvin Gaye wrote for them in 1967, “If This World Were Mine.” Watching the program, I learned that Tammi had survived a violent gang rape at age 11, began her professional singing career at age 14, toured with James Brown as a teen (and dated him— he, too, was nearly 30) and signed a record deal with legendary Motown records in 1965. There had always been mystery surrounding Tammi’s death in 1970 at age 24. For years the rumor was that she died a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her boyfriend, David Ruffin (lead singer of Motown’s Temptations) who is said to have hit her over the head with a hammer (which never happened, though there is an incident with a motorcycle helmet). The documentary I saw clarified that— Tammi died of brain cancer, like my friend; and like her duet partner, Marvin Gaye, I was just as distraught as he was. Gaye channeled his sorrow into what became his signature work, What’s Going On. I channeled mine into writing. I am writing this now because I read that book!
I ordered the book penned by Vickie Wright and Ludie Montgomery (Tammi’s sister). Vickie’s email address was in the back of the book. I sent her a message in 2010 and we have been friends ever since. She has co-authored another book about a Motown group. I had a wonderful conversation with Ludie a few years ago and have also formed friendships with other women who have known Tammi and shared their recollections in the book, My Sister Tommie. In 2015, it was announced the book is being developed into a major motion picture with actress Tamala Jones producing. My Sister Tommie is the only biography about Terrell.
Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse (2013)
No parent wants to bury their child. Ever more difficult is for that parent to have to suffer that pain in a very public way. Mitch Winehouse, father of Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011 at the age of 27, shares not only his personal grief, but also his personal joys as a father and best friend to his daughter. Filled with never-before-seen photos, Amy, My Daughter paints an intimate, very candid portrait of a woman who was immensely talented, but tortured by a very public struggle with drugs and alcohol; a struggle that ended with her untimely death. Not one to mince words or hide from the realities of addiction, Mitch Winehouse is very honest in his account as he guides readers through his daughter’s life and the impact of those struggles on her marriage, her family and her music. Stories like a young Winehouse singing Frank Sinatra (she named an album after him) with her grandmother to how Amy was introduced to hardcore drugs to the sometimes toxic relationship she had with her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil present a very complicated woman who shouldn’t be written off as just another junkie artist; she knew her power and saw it as a blessing and a curse, but made the most of the talent she had in the short time she was here.