The Tejano music spotlight has mostly shined on male musicians. But women also recorded music as early as 1904. These Chicanas were usually singers because this part was seen as “fit for women.” The soulful voices of these female artists had a heart-felt impact on generations of Chicanos.
“The Lark of the Border,” Lydia Mendoza was one of the earliest solo superstars. In 1935 she had a hit song, “Mal Hombre,” or “Bad Man.” This song especially appealed to women because it told a story from the woman’s point of view; something different from the numerous songs about women cheaters and heartbreakers.
In 1940s Texas, women singing duets were very popular. One notable duet was Carmen y Laura, the first stars of Ideal Records. In 1945 they had their first hit “Se Me Fue Mi Amor.” In this cancion, their beautifully paired voices tell about a woman’s lament over her love’s departure overseas to serve in the war.
Crowned “Queen of the Bolero,” Chelo Silva was one of the most popular singers in the 1950s. Her melancholy voice had an emotional quality that could make both men and women cry. This hit “Estas Sellado” is a bolero; a popular ballad style originally from Cuba.
In 1932 Rosita Fernandez, “The Rose of San Antonio” entered and won a radio singing contest in San Antonio. This launched her career. By the 1950s, she was appearing on local Television and starring in motion pictures. Listen to her soulful voice in “Mi Fracaso,” also a bolero.
A small woman with a big sound, Eva Ybarra is known as “the Queen of the Accordion.” Listen to “A Mi San Antonio.” This is a huapango; a song in 3/8 tempo. Eva’s skillful finger work is equal to any of the great Texas accordionists.
The beloved Laura Canales set a record for winning “Female Vocalist of the Year” from 1983 to 1987 in the Tejano Music Awards; earning her the title, “Queen of the Tejano Wave.” In 1989 Laura recorded her most loved song, “Cuatro Caminos.” This song was performed by many artists, but when the words flowed through Laura’s strong-expressive voice, everyone felt it deeply.
The woman who broke Laura’s record was “Queen of Tejano Music,” Selena Quintanilla Pérez. Like Laura, her clear powerful voice made people feel the meaning of her songs. Listen to, “Como La Flor” from 1992, a hit that brought Tejano music into millions of American homes.
These are just a few of the many women artists who performed their way into the hearts of millions.