Juan Gabriel, legendary Mexican singer, dies at 66

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Juan Gabriel, the prolific Latin American music icon, died of natural causes in Santa Monica, California, on Sunday morning, Los Angeles County Coroner spokeswoman Selena Barros said.

He performed at The Forum in Los Angeles on Friday night. On Sunday he was scheduled to perform a concert in El Paso, Texas, and 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. Gabriel also wrote songs for other artists and appeared in the 1975 Mexican film, “Nobleza Ranchera,” and four other movies.

Juan Gabriel performs onstage at the Billboard Latin Music Awards at Bank United Center on April 28, 2016, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images)
Juan Gabriel performs onstage at the Billboard Latin Music Awards at Bank United Center on April 28, 2016, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images)

“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.'”

He was nominated for numerous Grammys and was inducted into Billboard’s Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a tweet: “We lament the death of Juan Gabriel, one of the biggest 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 led Billboard magazine’s Top Latin Albums charts five times between 2016 and 2015.

“More leaders than any other artist in that span of time,” according to Billboard.

In his 45-year career, he was best known for his soulful ballads and romantic rancheras. His website lists more than 60 albums, with the first, “El Alma Joven,” produced in 1971.

His classic hits include “Querida,” “Porqué me haces llorar?” “El Noa Noa” and “Hasta que te conocí.”

Fans flocked to social media to share their memories — many of them rooted in childhood and family — of the man whose ballads resonated throughout their lives. Many said his death brought them to tears.

One fan tweeted that losing Gabriel “is like losing a family member..he was always at every party and event.”

Another fan wrote: “In the next few days, he’ll be called Mexico’s Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc. Don’t believe it. Juan Gabriel was singular.”

The death of Gabriel brought up memories of people’s childhood, waking up to his music in the morning. “I think every Latino household has had the memory of waking up to Juan Gabriel music blasting at least once,” wrote another fan.

Gabriel was remembered for his impact. “We lost our Prince, our Bowie, our Elton John. Juan Gabriel broke stereotypes in our community for decades,” tweeted Mariana Atencio, a news anchor on Fusion and Univison.

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