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‘El Leon del Corrido’ dies in Reynosa

23 March 2007

Beto Quintanilla was a huge star.  His raspy voice, always seemed on the verge of breaking into sobs, perfectly suited to the fatalistic outlook on life in the hard-scrabble North.  Like any good poet of the corrido, he dealt with life on life’s terms … which today includes the narcos.  I’ve included two videos looking at the tragedy and absurdity of life in the North.  The heartbreaking “Le Compre la Muerte a Mi Hijo” (I bought my son his death) is personal.  The second, looks at a personal tragedy.  The second, “Narco Battalion”, a very norteño — look at the stupidity of a “war on drugs” that at least pays for the tortillas.

The McAllen Monitor obiturary is by Miriam Ramirez.

MCALLEN— Beto Quintanilla, known in the musical world as El Leon del Corrido, died Sunday in Reynosa from heart failure. He was 58.

Born Norberto Quintanilla Iracheta in Gen. Teran, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, he moved to Reynosa at 13 to seek better opportunities outside of his poverty-stricken home. He found work as a ranch hand, milking cows for an extra peso and later worked for a relative at a clothing store, according to his official Web site.Although Quintanilla never learned to play a musical instrument, one of his favorite hobbies growing up was reciting prose to his teachers and mother about his homeland.It wasn’t until he made friends with musicians in and around northern Mexico that he found his niche in music as a frontman.To many in the music industry, Quintanilla will long be remembered for his down-to-earth persona and lively stage performances.With more than 20 albums released and multiple Grammy nominations, Quintanilla was a local favorite among listeners.

“He belonged to the people and he was never aloof to them. He was a part of what they were,” said Brenda Huerta, community relations director for KGBT 98.5 FM, which included Quintanilla in heavy rotation. “He was from the area and he never turned up his nose at them. The songs that he sang, they were about the community. He was a part of this area of their lives.”

Quintanilla appeared regularly on stages across the Rio Grande Valley, including the station’s anniversary bash late last year at Dodge Arena in Hidalgo.

“He was always very, very accommodating to play for us,” Huerta said, adding the singer would often rearrange his schedule to perform for fund-raisers and non-profit events. “For us it really has been a big blow. He was a really good friend to us.”

Most recently, the raspy-voiced singer fought off rumors of making narcocorridos, folk songs that often incorporate the lives of people caught up in the drug trafficking business, saying his material was solely music for the people.

In December, on the Internet rumors swirled that Quintanilla had been assassinated. He was thought to be another victim of the ongoing violence between drug cartels and the norteño community that sings about their activity.

“The music we played of his wasn’t glorifying the narcotics industry…that wasn’t his focus,” Huerta said.

Critics challenged his denial by pointing out that Quintanilla often posed with an automatic weapon on nearly every album cover. Others say the Norteño singer simply loved guns.

Local Spanish-language radio stations opted against playing any narcocorridos or any songs with questionable lyrics.

“In all that I have sung in my 30-year career, I have never made corridos against anyone,” Quintanilla said in a radio interview last year to squash the reported rumors. “I never talk about my enemies. Never against anyone.”

His last and final album, Tragedias Reales de la Vida, set for release this spring, included the song, “Le Compre la Muerte a Mi Hijo,” one of the most requested songs on Que Pasa KKPS 99.5 FM, said program director Mando San Roman.

“He did corridos mainly for the working people,” said San Roman. “He had a unique style not only the way he sang but the way he interpreted the music on stage.”

One of the last performances was at Graham Central Station in Pharr in January as fans witnessed a rare performance between Quintanilla and his brother Chuy Quintanilla, one that San Roman will remember fondly.

“There will be a big void in the type of music he played,” he said. “People would hear his music and say, ‘that’s Beto Quintanilla.’”

Quintanilla is survived by his wife and three children.

Funeral services are pending but will be at the Valle de la Paz, located on the Reynosa/Monterrey expressway with burial following at El Panteon Jardines Valle de la Paz.

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