By Mark Kemp
If you are Latino of a certain age span, Juan Gabriel‘s celebrity is on the level of Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce combined. He was ubiquitous. And if you are Latino of that certain age span, today is a very sad day, as Gabriel died of heart failure Monday while on tour after nearly 40 years of making hits in the Spanish-language pop world. He was 66.
Most recently, Gabriel teamed with an array of Spanish-language pop royalty — Juanes, Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, Ozomatli, Andrés Calamaro, Los Enanitos Verdes, La Marisoul from La Santa Cecilia, and others — for Quiero Creedence, a Spanish-language tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was a departure for Gabriel, a singer known more for his glittery onstage attire and sweet, heart-tugging pop ballads than for gritty songs a la Creedence. And yet he, like most other music fans from across Latin America, loved CCR.
Former Creedence frontman and songwriter John Fogerty said of Gabriel’s passing, “My heart is heavy and very sad today for Juan Gabriel has passed away. Juan is a legend in the world of Latin Music and someone that I truly admire. He has written and recorded hundreds of beautiful songs and recently had recorded a wonderful version of my song ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ that I love very much. We had talked about performing this song together and I was looking forward to a new friendship with this amazingly talented man.”