Radioactive Duo

Classic-rock station 93.7 The Arrow yanks controversial morning DJs Walton and Johnson off the air.

Ironically, in April 1995, I was a Tejano-­music-loving high school sophomore in a town southwest of Houston trying to explain to my non-Hispanic schoolmates who Selena was and why I was so affected by her untimely death at the hands of her fan-club president.

I was one of the lucky ones who can say they saw Selena debut her English tracks to a record-setting crowd in the Astrodome while draped in the purple sequins that Jennifer Lopez made famous. Like Jenni Rivera, Selena was only a star in her corner of the musical universe, someone whose death brought her overnight mainstream notoriety.

However, both women were already on the brink of crossover success and could have earned it themselves. The media's calls for remembrance happened before many people, including me, really got to know Jenni Rivera.

Jenni Rivera
Jenni Rivera

Her penning English tracks and developing an ABC comedy starring herself will go down as her unfulfilled potential and wrenching what-ifs among her fan base. But those aren't the reasons I want to remember Jenni Rivera, anyway.

I'd like to think, however far-fetched it may be, that Jenni Rivera's legacy will live as a memory for some young boy who saw his mother through heartache and the other side of hell through song. Maybe Jenni Rivera's music played the same role for him that Mariah Carey's did for me.

Then again, maybe you're not me, but you should still know this: Jenni's music and her unforgiving transparency about her own struggles struck at the hearts of her female fans, those who may have dealt with infidelity and abuse, and those who balance their progress and evolution as women with the competing cultural roles and expectations of their heritage.

That's profound, because Jenni Rivera sent those empowering, ballsy messages from a stage where she wasn't supposed to stand. She transcended gender by bulldozing her way to the forefront of a male-dominated genre in a community thick with machismo, delivering lyrical firebolts about her frustrations with living in a male-dominated world.

That's a beautiful story I think anyone can appreciate, because it's bold and daring and it defied the odds. That's enough to remember Jenni Rivera, even if you didn't know her.

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) is nominated for a Best World Music Album Grammy this year.

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