Published on Jun 21, 2016
LOS MEJORES EXITOS EN VIVO: Asi Fue, Amor Eterno, Abrazame Muy Fuerte, Querida, Hasta Que Te Conoci, Costumbres y Muchos Mas.
Juan Gabriel, the prolific 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.
Juan Gabriel’s publicist told The Associated Press that he had died on Sunday morning. Univision said he had had a heart attack.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, offered his condolences on Twitter, calling him “one of the great musical icons of our country.”
Juan Gabriel released the first of several dozen albums in 1971 and continued to release records at a relentless 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.
Four of Juan Gabriel’s albums had reached No. 1 on the Billboard Latin chart in the last 18 months. He sold three million albums in the United States over his career, a number dwarfed by his sales in Mexico. In 2009, when he was declared the Latin Recording Academy person of the year at the Latin Grammys, the academy released a statement saying that he had sold over 100 million albums.
Juan Gabriel was active until the end. He performed for two hours at the Los Angeles Forum on Friday, clad in one of his typically bright-colored outfits. In its review of the concert, Billboard called him “the ultimate showman.”
He was adept at keeping up with shifting genres, combining a contemporary pop sensibility with traditional Mexican music, often appearing with a full mariachi band in tow. A populist at heart, he wrote and sang songs that focused on the everyday dramas of life and love.
He also had collaborative spirit, working with well-known Latin American artists like Ana Gabriel and Marc Anthony, many of whom covered his songs.
Reviewing a concert in The New York Times in 2000, Jon Pareles called Juan Gabriel “a puckish figure onstage — part Tom Jones, part Liberace — with a teasing smile, an occasional hip wiggle and some surprisingly graceful dance steps.”
Juan Gabriel was born Alberto Aguilera Valadez on Jan. 7, 1950, in the state of Michoacan, on the Pacific coast west of Mexico City. One of 10 siblings, he was initially raised by his mother and began writing his own songs at age 13.
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 Gabriel, she placed him in a children’s home when he was 5. It was there that he met Juan Contreras, a deaf musician who had played in a band. Juan Gabriel chose the stage name in honor of both his father and Mr. Contreras, his first teacher.
In an interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada in 2012, to mark the 40th anniversary of his musical career, Juan Gabriel said both the pain and the joys of his childhood coursed through his music.
“Everyone who gave me food, who took away my hunger, inspired me to compose,” he said. “They told me their stories, and I had no other way to console them than with a piece of music, and that is how I learned. I did not resolve their problems with my songs, but I created a moment of release. They would cry, and they had more affection for me, and that is how I grew up.”
He ran away from the children’s home at 14. “One day I took out the garbage and never went back,” he said.
He played in the nightclubs of Ciudad Juárez, but he had set his hopes on a bigger prize and set out for Mexico City. Accused of stealing a guitar, he spent a year and a half in the city’s Lecumberri prison.
His luck changed when the ranchera singer Enriqueta Jiménez heard him and persuaded her producers to hire him.
Early hits like “No Tengo Dinero” (1971) focused on his humble beginnings, making him something of a folk hero.
Juan Gabriel stopped recording and performing for several years in the 1980s while battling his record label, BMG, for control of his music. He eventually came to an agreement with the company and gained control of many of his songs.
There was no immediate word on his survivors.
In a tell-all book, “Juan Gabriel and I,” a former secretary of Juan Gabriel’s, Joaquín Muñoz, said that he and Juan Gabriel had had a sexual relationship, The A.P. reported, an assertion that Juan Gabriel did not confirm or deny. Years later it became known that he had fathered four children with a friend, Laura Salas.
Antonio Martínez Velázquez, a co-founder of Horizontal, a cultural and political magazine, posted a tribute on Facebook in which he described Juan Gabriel as “our emotional pastor.”
“His were not simple concerts, they were religious, mystical and communal experiences,” Mr. Velázquez wrote. “His lyrics made up not songs, but rather hymns.”