Tejano Music Star Emilio Navaira Found Dead at Age 52

Grammy-winning Singer Journeyed Into Country Music in the 1990s

Emilio Navaira III, the Grammy-winning Tejano singer who had a brief run in country music under his first name during the 1990s, was found dead Monday (May 16) at his home in New Braunfels, Texas. He was 52.

Signed by Capitol Records/Nashville at a time when the country industry was attempting to invade the growing Spanish-speaking market with such bilingual acts as Rick Trevino and the Texas Tornadoes, Navaira released his first country album, Life Is Good, in 1995.

The initial single from that album, “It’s Not The End of the World,” went Top 30 and would prove to be his highest-charting effort, despite his powerful voice and heavy label promotion.

He did, however, chart five more singles over the next two years, including a cover of Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately.” None went higher than No. 41. The final two were from his second Capitol album, It’s On The House.

Born Aug. 23, 1963, in San Antonio, Navaira began learning to play the guitar when he was five. He intended to major in music in college, but abandoned that ambition in 1983 to become the lead vocalist for David Lee Garza’s band.

In 1989, Navaira formed his own band, Grupo Rio, and soon became a regional star, singing and recording both Tejano and country music. Prior to joining Capitol, he was six times voted male entertainer of the year at the Tejano Music Awards.

Returning to his roots after his country foray, Navaira won a Grammy in 2002 for best Tejano album. He continued touring and performing but was sidelined for several years by a severe head injury after he was thrown through the window of his tour bus in 2008 during a traffic accident in Houston.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.