Mexican singer and songwriter Juan Gabriel died from a heart attack at the age of 66 in Santa Monica, Calif. on earlier this week, just two days after his last concert. Gabriel, known for his poppy love ballades, rose to stardom in the early '70s with his hit song No Tengo Dinero, fame that came with a turbulent start.
Born Alberto Aguilera Valdez in Parácuaro, Michoacán on Jan. 7, 1950, the tenth child to farm working parents. At only three months old, his father attempted to commit suicide after losing control of a fire on his property, which spread to other land around him. He was later admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
With not only the looming problem crated by the damage his father had made but also internal family problems, Gabriel’s mother move the family to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. At the age of five, he was sent to a boarding school where he spent the next eight years of his life. This was a seminal part of his life as he had to mature quickly and learn to take care of himself with out the help of his family.
At the age of 14 he return to live with his mother. He began to sing with his church’s choir and there he realized that that was what he wanted to do. Gabriel began to travel around Mexico in his late teens to find gigs to sing in or recordings that needed backup vocals. He would be luck to find a couch to sleep on, but more often then not slept in bus and train terminals. His big brake came in 1970 when RCA Records signed him and produced his first album El Alma Joven.
From that point on, Gabriel went on to have a successful career with many beloved hit songs. His flamboyant and bright personality both on and off stage made him and his music stand out and can be compared to that of Elton John or David Bowie. However, what made Gabriel different from John or Bowie was that although he was always creating a new sound with his music, he was never afraid to create music in old and loved genres from mariachi to samba and most recently Mexican banda and never failed to impress.
On the day following his death, fans of all ages flocked to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to pay homage to the late great singer and even sing some of his songs together. A showing that really encompasses the career that Gabriel was able to have; that spans generations and with lyrics that still resonates with the listeners of today not only in Mexico and Latin America, but also all over the world.
That is why, like many other artist this year that have passed away, the music of Juan Gabriel will move on and, in essence, he will live on. El Divo de Juárez nunca morirá.