Rigo Tovar With Glasses
Cumbias Mexico

Rigo Tovar

Real Name : Rigo Tovar Garcia
Nickname : Rigo es Amor
Born : March 29, 1946
Birth Place : Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Rigoberto Tovar García (March 29, 1946 – March 27, 2005) was a Mexican singer best known as Rigo Tovar, famous for his cumbia songs. Considered a musical pioneer who started fusing electric guitars, synthesizers and rock melody with traditional Mexican music.

Born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, he died a few days before his 59th birthday from diabetic complications leading to cardio-respiratory failure. Although raised in his native Matamoros, bordertown to Brownsville, Texas, United States, he got his start in Houston, Texas, in the early 1970s. His music, a blend of cumbia, tropical and rock and roll quickly gained him a large following. His first album Matamoros Querido (Beloved Matamoros) (1971) included the title song and “Lamento de Amor”(Lament of Love), both became hit singles.

Through extensive radio play and touring both in the U.S.A. and Mexico he quickly achieved great popularity and wealth . At the height of his fame he was known as “El Ídolo de México” (Mexico’s Idol) and “El Ídolo de las multitudes” (The Idol of the Masses). The release of the album Amor y Cumbia (Love and Cumbia) (1976) catapulted him to superstar status not only in Mexico but many other areas of Latin America as well as the United States.

His adoring public coined the phrase “Rigo es Amor” which literally means “Rigo is Love”. This was attributed to the love songs he performed and the passion he poured into them. His music, voice and image were so endearing to so many that he became the living embodiment of love. It was routinely yelled out at his concerts and is still used when people speak of him.

He authored among others hits like “Matamoros Querido” (Beloved Matamoros), “La Sirenita” (The Little Mermaid), “¡Oh, qué gusto de volverte a ver!” (Oh, how nice to see you again!) and “Perdóname mi amor por ser tan guapo” (Forgive me, my love, for being so handsome). He was most successful in the 1970’s and 1980s and retired in the late 1990s but he and his songs remained popular, especially “La Sirenita” and “Matamoros Querido”.

His musical group was “Rigo Tovar’s El Costa Azul” (The Blue Coast)”; the group went through several incarnations and is still active and plans several activities in his memory, some of them in the United States of America. During his career he broke several attendance records in Latin America and Mexico(which still stand), sold over 30 million albums, and continues to influence countless artist in several genres.

Rigo was easily recognizable by his long, wavy black hair, dark eyeglasses and signature jump at the end of his concerts. In 1979 he broke an attendance record in Monterrey, Mexico at the Santa Catarina River when four-hundred thousand people showed up to see him play a free concert. Local newspapers El Norte (The North) and El Sol (The Sun) ran the story which stated “Rigo Tovar broke previous attendance record held by Pope John Paul II”. The Pope had visited Monterrey earlier that year, and his attendance stood at three-hundred thousand.

Rigo also starred in several movies, Vivir Para Amar (Live to Love) (1980), Rigo es amor (Rigo is Love) (1980), El Gran triunfo, (The Great Triumph) (1981) and one documentary on his success titled Rigo, una confesión total (Rigo, a Total Confession) (1979).

His musical influences were diverse and included elements of cumbia, ballads and blues. His own musical idols influences included Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Pedro Infante, Ray Charles and Ozzy Osbourne.

His life was as full of tragedy and controversy as that of success and fortune. He was born and grew up in extreme poverty in a large family where food was scarce and living conditions were extreme. He lost his mother, with whom he had a very close relationship, when his singing career started to ascend. The relationship with his father was tense and difficult, and although several of his brothers were in the band at the beginning; they left as Rigo started gaining all the attention. The one brother who stayed was Everardo Tovar who became his manager.

Rigo suffered from retinitis pigmentosa a genetic eye condition for which there is no current medical treatment(the reason for his constant usage of dark sunglasses). He started losing his sight in his mid 20’s and eventually went blind from this condition, although many people did not understand the ailment and thought it some kind of publicity stunt. He also suffered from vitiligo a skin condition where loss of pigmention causes patches of light skin to appear on the body.

Later his brother Everardo Tovar died in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Like many popular musicians he had many women in his life, and fathered an estimate of 12 children. In addition to retinitis pigmentosa and vitiligo he also suffered from diabetes. In his later years life became difficult: blind and sick, he was in the center of family feuds. His funeral was held behind closed doors in a notable funeral agency in Mexico City but fans and some members of his large family entered by force, fortunately without further incidents. He was cremated and his ashes were thrown onto one of Matamoros beaches, according to his wishes.

He appeared posthumously in a video for the Akwid song “Como, Cuando y Donde” later in 2005. The Akwid song samples his haunting jazz tinged interpretation of the song Quizás, Quizás, Quizás written by Osvaldo Farrés. The video shows his ghostly image from a television performance, he is wearing a white jumpsuit and he performs his famous trademark “jump”.

On the anniversary of his passing a statue of him was erected in Matamoros, Tamaulipas Mexico in his memory. It is on Rigo Tovar Street formerly La Primera de Mayo, which was mentioned in several of his songs. Also a tribute album called Rigo es Amor, by several modern Mexican “rockeros” was released to coincide with the one year anniversary of his passing, a concert was held in Mexico City as well. His songs are continually covered by countless artist in several genres including rock, hip hop, techno, and dance music. His latest CD La Historia de un Idolo hit the Latin Billboard chart’s top ten in 2005.

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