Jenni Rivera memorial celebration a tear-jerker

johnny-rivera-memorial-grab.jpgThe Jenni Rivera memorial held today at the Gibson Amphitheatre looked to be a very large family gathering. There were the 6,000-plus fans in the seats who sang along with the songs and chanted "Jenni," and who came to the stage at the end to offer single white roses for relatives to place on or at the base of Rivera's casket. They looked as if they were in no hurry to leave after the formal part of the event concluded, and the banda brass band continued to play.

There was the sense of a wake, with applause, tears and some laughter. "Drink tequila and beer, let the bands play with might," Rivera sang of her own funeral, in her hit song "Cuando Muere Una Dama." "Release butterflies, applaud me with your hands, because that's how you celebrate when a lady dies." Performers Joan Sebastian and Ana Gabriel sang songs in Rivera's honor, and paper butterflies floated down from the rafters.

Then there was Rivera's actual family on stage. The singer's brother, Rev. Pedro Rivera, Jr., pastor at Primer Amor church in Whittier, presided. Rivera's parents, well-known to her fan base, were prominent on stage. Her father, Pedro Rivera, "brought the crowd to tears when he sang a corrido written in honor of his daughter," the Daily News report says. Rivera's children came up one by one to speak about their mother, most of them beginning in Spanish then switching into English for their emotional eulogies. "I'm a product of the strongest woman I have ever known," daughter Janney "Chiquis" Marin said. Rivera's older son, Trinidad Michael Rivera, included in his eulogy a request for 27 seconds of silence in memory of the lives taken last week in Newtown, Connecticut.

The capper came when 11-year-old Johnny Angel Lopez took the microphone to talk about his mother. He teared up, as they all did, but he told the audience in a clear, strong voice how proud he was of his mother and how he felt she was in a happy place now. "I've never seen a mother work so hard," Johnny said, wearing the same white tux as other family members. "It's a real honor to say that Jenni Rivera - the woman everyone is talking about - is my mom."

rosie-rivera-memorial-grab.jpgThe Rev. Rivera and his sister, Rosie Rivera, wrapped up the event with stirring blessings in Spanish. Those who could not get in to the show watched on a giant screen outside at Universal CityWalk. The event was streamed live on the web by numerous media outlets.

Burial was to be private.

Rivera died Dec. 9 when her private jet crashed in Mexico while flying between Monterrey and Toluca. A major Mexican music star for a decade, the Culver City native who grew up in Long Beach and lived in Encino seemed to be on the verge of a crossover breakthrough when she died.

Photos: Screen grabs from the web livestream

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Arts stories on LA Observed:
How to escape social grit and grime: hear the music, see the dance
Why aren't LA's blocks in CTG's 'Block Party'?
New at LACMA: Charles White and Central Asian Ikats
Cinderella goes to war, Benjamin Britten shares the blitz
Pianists in 'Ragtime' and 'Green Book' make history
Molly Barnes
Kosher Nostra reunites: Music makers in all their unfaded glory
Don Shirley's theatrical highlights of 2018