Home Entertainment Music Mexican Music Icon Juan Gabriel Dead at 66

Mexican Music Icon Juan Gabriel Dead at 66

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Mexican Music Icon Juan Gabriel Dead at 66
Juan Gabriel, Pepsi Center, September 26, 2014. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/julioenriquez/15183984307">Julio Enriquez</a>

Juan Gabriel, the prolific Latin American singer and songwriter who was one of Mexico’s most successful musical artists, died on Sunday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 66. While the coroner’s office released a statement indicating that he died of natural causes, Univision is reporting that he suffered a heart attack.

Juan Gabriel Hollywood Star
Juan Gabriel’s Hollywood Star. Photo: Cindy Lu

Extraordinarily productive during his career, Juan Gabriel released the first of several dozen albums in 1971 and continued to release records at a rapid pace, including two this year. He was nominated for six Grammy Awards and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1996, he was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame.

He performed at The Forum in Los Angeles on Friday night and was scheduled to perform a concert in El Paso, Texas on Sunday. Additionally, he had 15 other US tour dates scheduled through early December.

Juan Gabriel, whose legal name was Alberto Aguilera Valadez, was 66. He sold more than 100 million records during his career, according to his website. Four of his albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard Latin chart in the last 18 months. Gabriel also wrote songs for other artists and appeared in the 1975 Mexican film, “Nobleza Ranchera,” and four other movies.

Juan Gabriel at the Festival Verano de Iquique
Juan Gabriel at the Festival Verano de Iquique

His father, Gabriel Aguilera, was committed to a mental hospital and his mother took the family to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, across the Texas border from El Paso. Unable to support a family on her own, she placed him in a children’s home when he was 5 and it was there that he met Juan Contreras, a deaf musician who had played in a band. The stage name Juan Gabriel honors his first teacher and his father.

“The creator of Juan Gabriel — songwriter, performer, family man, philanthropist and human being, known as Alberto Aguilera Valadez—today, he ended his time here and graduated from this life,” according to a statement from his official website.

“He has gone to become part of eternity and leaves us his legacy through Juan Gabriel, a character he created with the music he sang and performed across this world. Juan Gabriel hasn’t died, as Alberto would say, ‘As long as someone exists who sings my songs, Juan Gabriel will live.'”

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, offered his condolences on Twitter to Juan Gabriel’s family and friends, calling him “one of the great musical icons of our country. My condolences to his family and friends.”

He added, “A voice and a talent that represented Mexico. His music is a legacy to the world. He left us too soon. May he rest in peace.”

Known to his fans as El Divo de Juarez, Juan Gabriel was best known for his soulful ballads and romantic rancheras. His website lists more than 60 albums, and his classic hits include “Querida,” “Porqué me haces llorar?” “El Noa Noa” and “Hasta que te conocí.”

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