10 Iconic Ranchera Songs

Besides defining Mexico's musical identity, ranchera has also touched other Latin music genres such as bolero and Latin pop, and the 10 following ranchera songs have defined a big portion of the popularity that surrounds this traditional Mexican music genre.

From Pacho Michel's "Ay, Chabela" to Jose Alfredo Jimenez' "El Rey," the following tracks uniquely defined a portion of the genre, propelling their singers to fame in South, Central and North America, especially over the last four decades.

This spicy classic is one of the most significant contributions that Paco Michel gave to ranchera music.

"Ay Chabela" is a simple and colorful love story song that became a hit with the voice of the legendary Ranchera singer Antonio Aguilar, but was later interpreted by Paco Michel, which received much more commercial success than the original.

As far as Latin music goes, "Entrega Total" falls into the bolero ranchero style, created by one of the most beloved ranchera artists in history, Javier Solis.

This track captures the romantic style and sweet voice that Javier Solis brought to ranchera music like no other record he's released. If you're looking for an introduction to Solis' particular brand of ranchero, look no further than this 1964 song.

 

"La Media Vuelta" (sometimes spelled "La Media Buelta") is a song originally written by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, probably the most influential ranchera songwriter in history, but this single gained lots of popularity with Antonio Aguilar's version.

In recent years, Luis Miguel's interpretation of this song consolidated the appeal that has always surrounded this top ranchera hit, making it readily accessible to audiences across the Americas.

Along with being one of Latin music's greatest talents, Aguilar also went on to star in several Mexican films and was awarded the Golden Ariel for his "invaluable contribution and spreading of Mexican cinema" in 1997.

For those who do not know, "Las Mañanitas" is the Mexican equivalent of the "Happy Birthday" song in the United States, and if there is only one ranchera song that has touched Mexican culture in a significant way, this is that song.

Ironically, though, the origins of this essential piece of the Mexican folklore are still unclear. Still, Pedro Infante's version ranks among the most popular and is definitely worth a listen.

Take your pick of famous Mexican artists and they will likely have covered this track at one point in time in their career or another. Included in this list of covers are Vicente Fernández, Banda Machos and even Javier Solis.

Juan Gabriel is an icon of Mexican music. Even though his career has been mainly defined by the sounds of romantic ballads and Latin pop, Juan Gabriel has built most of his success around Mexican mariachi music.

"Te Lo Pido Por Favor" is one of the most beautiful Ranchera songs of the Juan Gabriel repertoire, featuring lyrics like "Wherever you are today and forever / I want you with me." 

Unfortunately, Juan Gabriel died of a heart attack in 2016, but the legacy of his 20 studio albums and countless live recordings lives on and still gets just as much airplay on Latin radio channels as they did decades ago. 

This song is probably the most famous ranchera song in the world today. Originally written in 1882 by Quirino Mendoza y Cortes, this track has since been recorded by thousands of artists since.

Besides its beautiful lyrics, "Cielito Lindo" is also an essential ingredient of traditional Mexican music with trumpets, horns and percussion highlighting the unique style of ranchera no matter who covers the track.

Even pop icons Enrique Iglesias and Luciano Pavarotti have covered this track together at a special concert in 2000. Chances are you'll instantly recognize the chorus: "Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores" ("sing and don't cry).

During the 1980's, Juan Gabriel formed a successful duo with Spanish singer Rocio Durcal. Together, they produced several ranchera songs that created a modern appeal for the genre.

Thanks to "Dejame Vivir," the duo became a music phenomenon throughout Latin America until they stopped touring together to once again pursue their solo careers.

Although both Juan Gabriel and Rocio Durcal have left this world (Gabriel in 2016 and Durcal in 2006), their version of "Dejame Vivir" still ranks as one of the most popular songs in Latin music.

"Por Tu Maldito Amor" is one of the most heartbreaking ranchera songs ever produced. Originally written by the prolific songwriter Federico Mendez Tejeda, it became a tremendous ranchera hit thanks to Vicente Fernandez.

Although the English translation of the track's lyrics starts with "The day I found you I fell in love," this song is anything but uplifting. Instead, it discusses the pains of what the singer goes through "for your damn love," lamenting that "you failed at the promise of adoring each other."

 

Another track made famous by Vicente Fernandez, "Mujeres Divinas" is one of the most popular songs in his repertoire. Just like "Por Tu Maldito Amor," this track gained enormous popularity through the voice of Vicente Fernandez — the song, however, was originally written by Martin Urieta.

With weeping vocals and a light cacophony of Mexican instrumentation, "Mujeres Divinas" laments the frustrations of falling in love with women, who are all divine in their own ways. Still, as the last lyric of the English translation implies, "There's not another way than adoring them."

Another top ranchera hit by the gifted songwriter Jose Alfredo Jimenez, this song is one of the most popular ever recorded.

"El Rey" is very often associated with the King of Ranchera music Vicente Fernandez thanks to his enduring interpretation of this song, but the original version carries just as much weight in the modern world of Latin music.