Legendary, award-winning singer-composer Juan Gabriel passed away suddenly this morning at the age of 66 from a reported heart attack in Santa Monica, California. Lovingly called “Juanga” and “El Divo de Mexico” by fans around the world, Gabriel gave what would be his final performance Friday night in Los Angeles, as part of a 22-city tour he launched just 9 days ago.
In a review of Friday’s concert, Billboard praised the two-hour, uninterrupted performance, calling it a “bucket-list worthy show.” Gabriel was scheduled to perform tonight in El Paso, Texas, and in Chicago next month.
Juan Gabriel’s Final Concert (Los Angeles, 9/26/16)
The youngest of 10 children, Gabriel was raised on the border town of Juarez and began composing songs at the age of 13. In 1971, he recorded his first hit, “No Tengo Dinero,” the beginning of a prolific 45-year career that produced countless hits for himself and legends such as Rocio Durcal and Ana Gabriel. Juan Gabriel’s incomparable talent for capturing love and loss in heartbreaking rancheras like “Amor Eterno,” ballads like “Querida,” and dance hits like “El Noa Noa,” garnered him a worldwide fan base.
Gabriel’s phenomenal talent won hearts around the world, surpassing borders, cultures and societal expectations of gender roles and sexuality. Donning striking outfits and embracing femininity through dance and movement, Gabriel conquered a musical genre known for ultra-macho personas and sexist lyrics. Gabriel famously told one reporter who asked him whether he was gay, “Lo que se ve no se pregunta” (“Don’t point out what’s obvious”). His uncompromising queer identity and his ability to triumph on a universal level made him a revered icon among queer Latin@s. In fact, Juan Gabriel left one last message to his queer fanbase at his LA concert. According to Univision, the following message appeared on video screens at the end of the concert:
“Felicidades a todas las personas que están orgullosas de ser lo que son” (Congratulations to all people who are proud of being what they are)
Gabriel leaves behind four children, including a son who served as his manager.
[Feature Photo: Wikimedia Commons]