10 Iconic Ranchera Songs

Alejandro Fernández. Confidencias Tour Mundial. Managua, Noviembre 2014
Alejandro Fernández.

Jorge Mejía peralta



Besides defining Mexico's musical identity, ranchera has also touched other Latin music genres, such as bolero and Latin pop. From Paco Michel's "Ay, Chabela" to Jose Alfredo Jimenez's "El Rey," the following 10 ranchera songs have played a large part in making this traditional Mexican music genre so popular, propelling their singers to fame in South, Central, and North America.

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"Ay Chabela" by Paco Michel

This spicy classic is one of the most significant contributions that Paco Michel has made to ranchera music. It was a hit for legendary ranchera singer Antonio Aguilar, but Paco Michel's later interpretation garnered even greater commercial success.

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"Entrega Total" by Javier Solis

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.

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"La Media Vuelta" by Antonio Aguilar

"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. Still, Antonio Aguilar's version remains the most popular.

In addition to 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.

In recent years, Luis Miguel's interpretation of "La Media Vuelta" consolidated the appeal of this top ranchera hit, making it readily accessible to audiences across the Americas.

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"Las Mañanitas" by Pedro Infante

For those who do not know, "Las Mañanitas" is the Mexican equivalent of "Happy Birthday." If we had to pick the one ranchera song that has touched Mexican culture in the most significant way, it would be "Las Mañanitas." Ironically, though, the origins of this essential piece of Mexican folklore are still unclear. 

Take your pick of famous Mexican music artists—Vicente Fernández, Banda Machos, and even Javier Solis—and they will likely have covered this track at one time or another in their career. Still, Pedro Infante's version ranks among the most popular and is definitely worth a listen.

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"Te Lo Pido Por Favor" by Juan Gabriel

Juan Gabriel is an icon of Mexican music. Even though he is primarily known for his romantic ballads and Latin pop songs, 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. They still get just as much airplay on Latin radio channels as they did decades ago. 

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“Cielito Lindo” by numerous artists

This song is probably the most famous ranchera song in the world today. Chances are you'll instantly recognize the chorus: "Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores" ("sing and don't cry").

Originally written in 1882 by Quirino Mendoza y Cortes, this track has since been recorded by thousands of artists. Even pop icons Enrique Iglesias and Luciano Pavarotti covered this track together at a special concert in 2000. 

In addition to featuring beautiful lyrics, "Cielito Lindo" is a prime example of traditional Mexican music, with trumpets, horns, and percussion highlighting the unique style of ranchera no matter who covers the track.

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“Dejame Vivir” by Juan Gabriel and Rocio Durcal

During the 1980s, Juan Gabriel, together with Spanish singer Rocio Durcal, produced several ranchera songs in a more modern vein.

Thanks to "Dejame Vivir," the duo became a musical 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.

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“Por Tu Maldito Amor” by Vicente Fernandez

"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 hit thanks to Vicente Fernandez, whom many consider the king of ranchera music.

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 illustrates the singer's heartache as he jumps through hoops "for your damn love," lamenting that "you failed at the promise of adoring each other."

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“Mujeres Divinas” by Vicente Fernandez

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," it became enormously popular thanks to the voice of Vicente Fernandez, even though it 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."

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“El Rey” by Jose Alfredo Jimenez

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 Vicente Fernandez, thanks to his enduring interpretation, but the original version carries just as much weight in the modern world of Latin music.