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been hospitalized since August, after a fall at his Guadalajara ranch in the central state of Jalisco required an emergency spinal surgery.

While in the hospital, he had also been diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the body's nerves, his family had reported to media. Following months of steady improvement, his health had taken a turn for the worse in recent days.

Fernández was largely considered the last living legend of the Mexican ranchera, the style of song deeply rooted in the values and traditions of rural Mexico. He sang about honor and courtship, cockfights and rodeos, love and heartbreak – all while dressed in the elegantly embroidered costume of the charro, Mexico's chivalrous cowboy, and accompanied by a full mariachi ensemble.

Over a six-decade career, his voice became synonymous with Mexico itself. His velvety baritone was instantly recognizable, and his songs worked their way into the daily lives of Mexicans and lovers of Mexico the world over – the soundtrack to wedding parties and quinceañeras, baptisms, birthdays and funerals.

He was also the quintessential symbol of the Mexican macho. His thick mustache, dyed black long after his hair had turned white, was punctuation under the brim of his shoulder-wide sombreros. At concerts he wore a pistol on his hip, and he sang for hours, drenching himself in sweat. Just as it appeared he might be wrapping up, he'd take a swig of tequila, and sing some more.

"He would sing as long as people wanted him to sing," said Leila Cobo, vice president at Billboard magazine. "And I think that commitment to his fans that said, 'I'm yours for the taking,' just had a huge impact."

In many ways his image was a perfect fit for and a product of Mexico's patriarchal culture. But Fernández also dispensed with some of the expectations that Mexican culture places on its men – that they be walls of stoicism, suppressing emotion. His songs dripped with an uncommon vulnerability, and in many of them, he openly wept, gasping for breath as he drowned in the pain of a bitter heartbreak.

"He would sing these songs with so much pathos and so much emotion, that grown men would cry, and he would cry," Cobo said. "Perhaps because he was such a macho man, he could cry. And that made him all the more iconic and legendary."

Fernández was born in 1940, in a small town in the central ranching state of Jalisco. As a boy his family moved to Tijuana, where he worked odd jobs – washing cars, digging ditches, shining shoes, and pouring the foundation for the homes in some of that city's early suburbs.

He started singing in bars and restaurants at 19, and eventually made his way back to Guadalajara and Mexico City, where he convinced label executives to record his music. His first hit, in 1969, was "Tu Camino y El Mío," a nostalgic ballad about an unrequited love.

Over the decades he'd have many more. He recorded dozens of albums that sold millions of copies, and won three Grammys.

But he always emphasized his humble origins, and felt an affinity with Mexico's poor, working-class, and rural people. He performed in massive concert arenas as well as in bullrings and cockfight pits.

And he became an important icon for Mexican immigrants to the U.S. and around the world – who found that his music transported them to the ranches and towns they'd reluctantly left behind in search of opportunity abroad.

His longevity and popularity as a singer was remarkable, spanning generations, said Jose Anguiano, a professor in popular music at California State University, Los Angeles. His immense popularity even among young Mexicans and Mexican-Americans today, Anguiano said, owes in large part to the timelessness of his recordings, but also to the way Mexican families have relied on his music to constantly renew their pride in Mexico and in Mexican culture.

"He was singing not just to us but to our uncles, our parents, and our grandmothers as well," Anguiano said. "So there's this immense sense of loss for what he means to the culture."

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Be on KRCB 104.9...answer this month's "Talk to Me" question: With fire season upon us, are you having second thoughts about Sonoma County?
 
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Listen to the Sonoma County Birdwatch!

fullerThroughout the week, we play short segments about what birds are out in Sonoma County and what they sound like, from Harry Fuller. Here's what we've aired so far. Harry spent his working career as a TV and Internet newsman in the Bay Area.  He’s been leading bird trips and writing about birds for thirty years.  He has written three natural history books: Freeway Birding, I-5 San Francisco to Seattle; San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars; Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon & Washington. He blogs regularly about birds: atowhee.blog.  And he frequently leads birding trips on the Pacific Coast. Check him out at http://www.towhee.net/.

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8ff1 Asset 6 p 500Our podcast "Living Downstream" has been named by the Global Center for Climate Justice as one of "Five Climate Justice Podcasts You Need to Follow." Wow: https://bit.ly/2Xkbs0D

Listen to some recent episodes! Generations in Houston's Fifth Ward Contend with Contamination, Cancer Clusters will break your heart, and perhaps solidify your resolve to make change. The Sea Next Door is told in true partnership with the community living near California's Salton Sea, an environmental powder keg, where the state has no idea how to avoid a coming health disaster.

Get them here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

 

 
Postcards from Sonoma County...
        ... What people are talking about, direct from the locals.
 
Each week, our correspondents from all over Sonoma County check in with a weekly "postcard" of what people are talking about in their area. Not always "news," but still worthy of a mention. It's our way to give voice to communities that may not make it into the standard news cycle.
 
We play these in a random rotation throughout the week. Generally, each postcard airs from Sunday morning at midnight thru Saturday at 11:59:59 pm.
 
We archive all our postcards here. Have a listen!
 

 Week of Sunday, January 9th, 2022:
 
Greetings from Healdsburg
 
 
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
 
 
Greetings from Petaluma
 
 
Greetings from Rohnert Park
 
 
Greetings from Sebastopol
 
 
Greetings from Windsor
 
 
 
 

 
Week of Sunday, January 2nd, 2022:
 
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
 
 
Greetings from Petaluma
 
 
Greetings from Rohnert Park
 
 
Greetings from Windsor
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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