Selena Forever

In March 31, 1995,  I was a rookie reporter at the Los Angeles Times when I got a call from a friend in Texas: Selena, the Tejano music star, had been murdered.

I knew of her, of course, and had watched her collect her Grammy.

But that afternoon, with the phone in my hand, I didn't quite grasp the enormity of what had happened. It hit me when I encountered the entertainment editor's reaction to my news: He didn't believe me. By the time he corroborated the facts and the wires got the story and Selena's life started to play again and again on television, my heart just wasn't into writing about it anymore, because by then, the sadness of this tale, the futility of this death, had numbed me.

In the days that followed, I, like the rest of the country, witnessed the massive, collective mourning for Selena, and like so many others, I marveled: "I didn't know how big she was."


Sixteen years later, I'm no longer surprised by the enormity of Selena's achievements while she was alive, but the growing scope of her influence since her death. You see it in the movie, the TV specials, the countless compilations—which continue to sell unabated--the shrine to her that is her hometown of Corpus Christi, TX., the way her name is spoken—by every Latina girl, it seems—even those who weren't even born when she died.

A few weeks ago, I went to the studio to listen to "Selena Forever," the just released album of remastered and rearranged Selena tracks, some of the re-recorded as duets. The producers had stripped down Selena's vocals and laid them over new musical arrangements. They played something rare for me: Selena's solo vocal tracks. Devoid of any other instrument or accompaniment, you hear every breath, every sigh, every emotion poured into the unforgettable voice, that still sounds as real today as it did almost two decades ago.

And I marveled all over again: "I didn't know how big she was."

What is your memory of Selena?