Emilio H. Navaira III was born on August 23, 1962, in San Antonio, Texas, to Mexican-American parents, Emilio Navaira, Jr. and Maria Hernandez. Growing up on the south side of San Antonio, Navaira found each influence in not only Tejano legends such as Little Joe y la Familia, but also Lone Star country music heroes such as Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, and George Strait. As a student, Navaira graduated from McCollum High School in 1980, received a music scholarship to Texas State University, and majored in music with plans to become a teacher before ultimately deciding to pursue a career as an artist.
In 1983 at age 21, Emilio began his performing career by singing lead vocals for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales. In 1987, Cuantas Veces by David Lee Garza Y Los Musicales beat out Alpha by Mexican American singer Selena for Album of the Year at the Tejano Music Awards. In 1989, Navaira formed his own band, Emilio y Grupo Rio. That same year Emilio signed with Columbia Records (then known as CBS Records). This relationship resulted in Emilio recording more than fifteen studio albums to date, including several with his Rio Band.
By the mid 1990s, Emilio began crediting himself solely as Emilio, eventually switching his focus to country music. Between 1989 and 1996, Emilio had released seven Spanish albums with cumulative sales of about 2 million. This success lead to mainstream commercial exposure, with companies such as Coca-Cola and Wrangler Jeans using his songs in their advertisements in the 1990s. Emilio had also gained a sponsorship with Miller Lite beer, who had persuaded him to use their slogan at the time, "Life is good," as the title of his first country album.
Emilio signed with Capitol Records and released his first country music single called "It's Not the End of the World" which reached the Top 30 on the country charts in 1995. His album was a surprise success as well reaching No. 13 on the country charts and also a high placing on the Top 200. Several more singles including a Spanish version of "It's Not the End of the World" followed but none of these singles came close to the Top 40 except "Even If I Tried" which reached No. 41 in 1996. In 1997, he released a second country album, "It's On The House" but it was not as successful as his first country album. Two more minor country singles followed and gradually Emilio faded from country music and increasingly came back to Tejano music.
His 2002 album Acuérdate won the Grammy Award for Best Tejano Album and his 2007 album De Nuevo won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Tejano Album.
Navaira has five children. His three children from his first marriage to Cynthia Navaira also perform for Grupo Rio. Emilio Navaira IV plays drums, and Diego Navaira plays guitar and daughter Emely. Emilio IV and Diego also had a band named Ready Revolution; in 2016 they formed The Last Bandoleros, a Tex-Mex-foursome that toured together with Sting in 2017. Diego is mainly known for vocals and credited with being on the voice, which he sadly did not win. He also has two from his second marriage to Maru Navaira,
Navaira has two siblings: Raul "Raulito" Navaira, who performs back-up vocals for Grupo Rio; and Yvette Navaira. Navaira was a Republican.
Navaira was hospitalized in critical condition after his tour bus crashed early in the morning on March 23, 2008, in Bellaire (a small municipality partially surrounded by Houston, Texas). Navaira had performed the previous night at Hallabaloos, a Houston nightclub and he was at the wheel of the tour bus as it traveled north along west 610 Loop near the Southwest Freeway when it crashed into a set of freeway barrels shortly before 4 a.m. Emilio was taken by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital where a blood clot in his head was removed; Emilio's initial treatment included being kept in a medically induced coma and induced hypothermia to minimize brain swelling. Doctors cautioned that he might not survive.
On September 24, 2008, Emilio was involved in another car accident in San Antonio as a passenger while his wife was driving. According to a witness, the Navairas were stopped in a turn lane when a truck crossed at least two lanes of traffic and struck their vehicle. Both Emilio and his wife Maria were released from the hospital the following day. Emilio's agent, Joe Casias, stated that Emilio and his wife were headed home from a rehabilitation therapy appointment stemming from the March tour bus accident.
Emilio was found dead by his wife in his New Braunfels home on May 16, 2016 at 53. Emilio performed his last known concert in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, on May 11, 2016, as part of a concert celebrating Mother's Day in that city. Reports indicated he suffered a massive heart attack. Authorities said their investigation into the death of Navaira showed that he died of natural causes because of cardiovascular disease, and found no sign of foul play.ASouthern Exposure also peaked at No. 39 on US Heatseekers.
ACredited to Emilio Navaira.
B"No Es El Fin del Mundo" is a Spanish-language version of "It's Not the End of the World".
C"Por Siempre Unidos" also peaked at No. 7 on Latin Pop Airplay.