Emilio Navaira, the Grammy-winning musician known for his mix of traditional Mexican music and accordion-based polka known as Tejano, died May 16 at his home in New Braunfels, Texas. He was 53.
Mr. Navaira was found unresponsive by his family, and his brother Raulito said the cause was probably a heart attack suffered shortly after returning from a jog. He added that the autopsy showed a coronary artery was “90 percent clogged.”
Mr. Navaira released nearly a dozen albums in Spanish and English during his career. Although he was best known for his Tejano music — he won a Grammy for best Tejano album in 2002, for his record “Acuérdate” — his work also included country music.
Mr. Navaira and his group, Rio, made their mark during the late 1980s and early 1990s — the same time that the late singer Selena rose to fame — in the heyday of Tejano music, said Juan Tejeda, a Mexican American studies and music instructor at Palo Alto College in San Antonio.
Mr. Navaira had performed with bands since he was a teenager in San Antonio and launched his solo career in 1989, according to his agent, Joe Casillas.
“I’m from San Antonio and always will be,” Mr. Navaira said in a 1995 interview with the Monitor newspaper. “We must be proud of where we came from and who we are to make it anywhere.”
In 2008, Mr. Navaira was critically injured in a tour bus crash near Houston. He suffered head trauma and other injuries when he was thrown through the windshield.
The injuries required several surgeries, and he wore a helmet for months to protect his skull. He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.
The crash kept Mr. Navaira from performing for several years, but he recently was appearing more often, Tejeda said.
“Little by little, he was coming back, making a comeback,” Tejeda said.
Mr. Navaira was born in San Antonio on Aug. 23, 1962, and attended Texas State University. A complete list of survivors could not be determined.
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