Singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel was one of Latin America’s best-selling singer-songwriters. He made 32 records, sold over 30 million albums, and wrote over 1,800 songs. Gabriel produced other artists and many artists covered his songs. He was a tremendously influential Latin artist across the Americas.
Hearing Gabriel’s ‘Hasta Que Te Conocí” inspired Marc Anthony to start singing salsa, a move that made him a star. Ironically “Hasta que te conocí” means “Until I met you.”
Just a few days before Gabriel passed away, Juanes, the Colombian singer-songwriter said, “Juan Gabriel is Our Elvis.”
Juan Gabriel is our Elvis
Gabriel was active for more than four decades and influenced multiple generations of listeners and artists. He was born on January 7, 1950 in Parácuaro, Michoacán, Mexico. That’s about three or four hours west of Mexico City.
Juan Gabriel’s real name was Alberto Aguilera Valadez. For his stage name Alberto chose Juan in honor of his school music teacher, and Gabriel in honor of his father. Fans affectionately called Gabriel “Juanga” or “El Divo de Juárez.”
Juan Gabriel was Instantly Popular
The debut single “No Tengo Dinero” (I don’t have any money) from his debut album “El Alma Joven…” (The Young Soul) became his first hit in 1971. It reached #5 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart.
“Querida” (Dear, 1984) was one of Mexico’s biggest hits ever. “Recuerdos, Vol. II” (Memories, 1984) is the best-selling album of all-time in Mexico.
Gabriel was the first popular artist to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The Palacio is sort of the Carnegie Hall of Mexico City. The 1991 recording was a historic hit.
Gabriel could really make a party come alive. He had the charisma and flamboyance of Elvis in his prime. But Gabriel the person is remembered as a humble gentleman.
Gabriel was nominated to the Latin Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2015.
Juan Gabriel Went Out on Top
Gabriel died on August 28, 2016 from a heart attack at his Santa Monica home while touring his latest show across the United States.
That show, MeXXIco Es Todos (Mexico Is All of Us). was more a spectacle than a show. It included 10 singers, 20 dancers and 50 mariachi / orchestra musicians.
Incredibly, Gabriel was still peaking in his career. In 2015, he had the top-selling Latin album, “Los Dúo 2,” and the highest grossing Latin tour.
In 2016, Gabriel celebrated his 45th anniversary as a recording artist by releasing “Vestido de Etiqueta por Eduardo Magallanes.” Gabriel sang 34 of his own classics with an orchestral accompaniment. It was #1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart when Gabriel passed away.
A telenovela about Gabriel’s life “Hasta que te conocí” ran from April 18th through August 28th, 2016. That was the day the music died.
Juan Gabriel Carries On in the People’s Hearts
Vestido De Etiqueta Por Eduardo Magallanes earned an 18th Latin Grammy Awards nomination for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.”