Culture

Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel dies at age 66

The musical icon known as the 'Divo of Juárez' died in his Santa Monica, California home Sunday morning.
28 Ago 2016 – 6:32 PM EDT

Singer-songwriter Alberto Aguilera Valadez, known as Juan Gabriel, died of a heart attack Sunday in Santa Monica, California, at 66 years old.

Born Jan. 7, 1950, in Parácuaro, Michoacán, the Mexican icon passed away at 11:43 a.m. local time, relatives confirmed. Selena Barros, an investigator with the Los Angeles coroner's office, confirmed that Gabriel died of natural causes.

The singer had just performed Friday night as part of the "MeXXIco is everything" tour for some 17,500 fans in Los Angeles, California, where he appeared energetic and full of life. He was slated to perform in El Paso Sunday.

The life of Juan Gabriel

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One of the most prolific songwriters in Mexican history, he wrote around 1,800 songs. He recently released a tribute album to rock band Creedence, featuring the song "Gracias al sol," his version of the song "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

With more than 35 albums over the course of his 45-year career, Juan Gabriel's songs became the soundtrack to the lives of millions of Mexicans from several generations. He started out performing at clubs and went on to perform at venues like New York's Madison Square Garden and Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts.

Fans and celebrities from Ricky Martin to Gloria Trevi mourned his death on social media Sunday afternoon. "Juan Gabriel is our Elvis," Colombian singer Juanes told Billboard this month. Marc Anthony, a Puerto Rican singer, wept during a concert Sunday as he wished Juan Gabriel farewell.

Juan Gabriel's oeuvre included more than 1,000 pieces recorded by over 800 artists in languages such as Japanese, Portuguese, German, Italian, Turkish, English and French.

Also known as "The Divo of Juárez," the singer achieved fame in Mexico and around the world with songs like "Se me olvidó otra vez," "Amor eterno" and "Noa noa," receiving numerous accolades for his successful career, including six Grammy nominations.

Juan Gabriel was also known for supporting immigrant rights in the United States and for backing large-scale protests in 2006 calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

The youngest of 10 children, Aguilera was the son of Gabriel Rodriguez Aguilera and Victoria Valadés Rojas, who were peasants. He never married, and refused to comment publicly on his sexual orientation. He had four children with his close friend Laura Salas.

During his final show Friday, a message flashed on the screens at LA's Inglewood Forum: "Congratulations to everyone who is proud to be who they are."

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