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Mexico, music world mourn singing legend Juan Gabriel

Update: August, 30/2016 - 12:00
Juan Gabriel, legendary Mexican singer-songwriter, dies at 66. -- Photo
Viet Nam News

MEXICO CITYMexico and the music world on Monday mourned the death of legendary singer Juan Gabriel, who touched millions with wrenching ballads of love and loneliness as he rose from the rough streets of Ciudad Juarez to a world stage.

The singer, known as the "Divo of Juarez", died of a heart attack on Sunday at his home in Santa Monica, California during a break in his latest tour. He was 66.

He wrote hit songs, sold tens of millions of records, received six Grammy nominations, and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a barrier-busting career that won him admirers all over the world.

But it was music infused with his own hard-luck beginnings and hard-won success that endeared him to Mexicans who saw themselves mirrored in his work.

His first hit was No Tengo Dinero (I Have No Money), written while imprisoned in Mexico City’s Palacio de Lecumberri prison on an accusation of robbery that was later dropped.

Other hits followed, songs that many Mexicans know by heartincluding Hasta Que Te Conoci (Until I Met You), Asi Fue (That’s How It Was), Abrazame Muy Fuerte (Embrace Me Tightly) and Amor Eterno (Eternal Love).

’A prayer, a grudge, a love’

"With the Mexican song, he made a prayer, a grudge, a love that is out of this world, or a party," said Culture Minister Rafael Tovar y de Teresa on Radio Formula.

The singer’s work "reaches the deepest place" in what it means to be a Mexican, he said.

Just on Friday, Gabriel gave a packed concert in Los Angeles to a crowd of 17,000 that had fans singing along and dancing for more than two hours.

News of his death brought an outpouring of old songs and remembrance on social media.

Fans hastened to the Mexico City plazas where mariachi musicians perform to ask for favourites like No Me Vuelvo Enamorar (I’ll Never Fall in Love Again).

Dozens of people gathered outside his home in Ciudad Juarez to pay respects.

And in Hollywood, his star on the Walk of Fame became a focal point for tributesadmirers left roses and candles, an old photo of the artist in performance and other memorabilia.

Marc Anthony, the Grammy-award winning salsa singer, paid emotional tribute during a concert in New York Sunday night with a cover of Abrazame Muy Fuerte.

"Today the world of Latin music lost a giant, an icon and a legend who marked my life forever," Anthony said on Instagram.

’The mirror of Mexico’

The singer’s death was naturally top news in Mexico.

"Juan Gabriel Eterno" ran the headline in El Universal, with a picture of the star.

"He is (and will be) the mirror of Mexico," said the Mexico edition of El Pais.

"His music was his legacy for the world. He left us too soon," Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter.

US President Barack Obama echoed the sentiment, calling him "one of the greats of Latin music".

"To so many Mexican-Americans, Mexicans and people all over the world, his music sounds like home," he said.

Gabriel’s family said it would release more details on his passing in the coming days.

"We know that our father will miss entertaining his countless fans, who brought him tremendous joy in life," his son Ivan Aguilera said.

’Simple person’

Juan Gabriel was born Alberto Aguilera Valadez in Paracuaro, Michoacan state on January 7, 1950.

After his father was committed to a mental institution, his mother moved the family to Ciudad Juarez, on Mexico’s northern border, and had her son placed in a boarding school.

When he later took his stage name, he chose Juan after a teacher at the school and Gabriel after his father.

He sang in a church choir as a boy, was taken in by nuns, and got his start singing in Juarez bars and on a local TV show, Noches Rancheras. But it was a tough climb to stardom, with many rejections, disappointments and a stint of homelessness in Mexico City that ended with him in jail.

With help from the warden he found his way into the music business, however, working as a composer, arranger and producer. His growing fame landed him roles in Mexican movies.

"He was a very simple person, who despite his great popularity, was always very close to the people, to his friends, to his colleagues. He was a very, very much loved personality," said Mexican tenor Fernando de la Mora, speaking on Milenio TV.

Mario Lafontaine, a specialist in Mexican music, said "an artist like him is born only every 500 years. He was the most important figure in Mexican music in the Pop era".

In 2015, Billboard listed him as one of the "30 most influential Latin artists of all time." He is credited with writing or recording hundreds and hundreds of songs, and sold millions of albums. His songs have been widely performed by other artists.

Beloved across Latin America, they have also had been translated into French, German, Italian and Japanese.

Coincidentally, Juan Gabriel passed away just as the TV Azteca network readied to air the end of a series based on his life. -- AFP  



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