His songs are considered an integral part of the Mexican musical heritage and are comparable, for instance, to Woody Guthrie's influence on American folk music.
He had no musical training—according to the singer Miguel Aceves Mejía, Jiménez didn't play an instrument and didn't even know the Spanish terms for "waltz" and "key". Nonetheless he composed more than 1000 songs. Among the most famous are "Ella", "Media vuelta", "El Rey", "El jinete", "Si nos dejan", "Amanecí entre tus brazos", "Cuando el destino", "El caballo blanco", "Llegó borracho el borracho" and "Que te vaya bonito", as well as "Caminos de Guanajuato", where he sang about his home state of Guanajuato.
In addition to his own hit recordings, many of his songs have been recorded successfully by renowned recording artists from around the Spanish-speaking world, most notably by Miguel Aceves Mejía, Pedro Infante, Rocío Durcal, Javier Solís, Pedro Fernández, Jorge Negrete, Vikki Carr, Luis Miguel, Lola Beltrán, Alejandro Fernandez, Lucha Villa, Chavela Vargas, Maná, Antonio Aguilar, Vicente Fernández, Julio Iglesias, Joaquín Sabina, Manolo García, Alvaro Torrez and Los Tigres del Norte.
Jiménez died at 44, like others of his contemporaries: Negrete, Infante and Solís, the so-called "Three Mexican Roosters", or Tres Gallos Mexicanos all died young. He was struck-down by hepatitis at age 47 and is regarded, along with Agustín Lara and Juan Gabriel, as one of the best songwriters that Mexico has ever produced. He was certainly one of the most prolific composers in the history of popular music, world-wide.
Shortly before his death, he wrote and recorded his last song, "Gracias", thanking the public for all of the affection they had shown him. His tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for serious music fans from around the Spanish-speaking world.