Juan Gabriel, who was born Alberto Aguilera Valadez, was beloved by generations of fans and known for his flamboyant style.
The singer was on tour in California at the time of his death.
His son Ivan Aguilera said in a statement, “My father’s untimely passing is a tragic loss for all of us, his family, colleagues, and fans alike. We give heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of condolences we have received from around the world including from President Enrique Pena Nieto. We know that our father will miss entertaining his countless fans, who brought him tremendous joy in life.”
Juan Gabriel’s family said they would release further details about his death in the coming days, and asked for his fans and media to “to allow them this very brief window to mourn the loss of Juan Gabriel.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Performed a Concert at The Forum in Los Angeles a Day Before His Death
The superstar singer Juan Gabriel had performed a concert at The Forum in Los Angeles Friday night, just hours before his death, Billboard reports.
He suffered a massive heart attack Sunday morning while preparing to fly from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, the next stop in his tour, according to Billboard.
In a review of Friday night’s concert, Billboard’s Griselda Flores called Juan Gabriel the “ultimate showman.”
Flores wrote, “Accompanied by a full mariachi band, an orchestra and a troupe of 20-plus dancers, the Mexican crooner serenaded his fans at The Forum for two hours straight. The high energy show kicked off in full force with a patriotic performance that screamed Mexican pride with follkloricos and breathtaking images of Mexico playing on the screens. Then, “El Divo de Juarez” appeared on the 360-stage wearing a black suit with a royal blue silk shirt underneath that matched the color of his mariachi.”
It was not known what caused the heart attack. He was not known to have been ill, but has had health issues in the past.
In November 2014, Juan Gabriel was hospitalized in Las Vegas for three weeks during a battle with pneumonia, according to the Latin Times.
“Everything is fine,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is nothing to worry about, we only need to take care of ourselves. Thanks to all the kind messages and good wishes.”
Despite rumors he was near death or had died spreading on social media, he made a full recovery and returned to touring.
But Juan Gabriel told the Latin Times last August that he died and came back to life during that health scare.
“I already died when I was in Las Vegas. I don’t remember if it was May or June, but I came back because they gave me permission to come back,” he said. “I don’t know for how long, but I know that while I sing, write nice songs, record, and go up and down with my tours, I will transform into what I’ve done: music.”
That same month, sources close to him told TVnotas the singer “doesn’t take care of himself, it’s going to be difficult for him to get better”
The source said Juan Gabriel “needs to follow a strict diet, drink a lot of water and eat healthy, fruits, vegetables, and everything in small portions, he also needs to rest a lot, and he is not doing any of that,” adding that he has put on weight and complained about muscle pain and lack of breath after concerts.
“He complains about muscle pain, but what worries him the most is the lack of air. As soon as he finishes ‘un Palenque,’ he immediately walks to his dressing room, but he takes his boots off because he can’t walk in them, he needs someone to help get there,” the source told TVnotas.
Read more about Juan Gabriel’s death in Spanish at our sister site, Ahora Mismo:
2. He Sold Millions of Records During a Career Spanning More Than 4 Decades
Juan Gabriel sold millions of records during his career, which spanned more than four decades. He signed his first recording contract in 1971 and his first hit was “No tiengo dinero,” according to ABC News.
He went on to write and sing more than 1,500 songs. He was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1996, among the many honors he has received.
According to Billboard, Juan Gabriel remained one of the top Latin singers, and highest grossing musicians of any genre, up until his death.
He ranked No. 18 on Billboard’s 2015 Money Makers list, and earned $11.6 million in touring revenue in 2015, the second-highest-grossing Latin tour of the year. He also had the top-selling Latin album, Los Duo, Billboard reports.
3. He Was Born in a Small Town in Mexico & Began Singing While at a Boarding School
Juan Gabriel was born January 7, 1950, in the small town of Parácuaro, Mexico, as the youngest of 10 children, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He talked about his childhood in a 1993 interview with the LA Times:
I was born in Michoacan, which is in the south of Mexico. When my father died, my mother moved to Ciudad Juarez. She had to go to work as a housekeeper and couldn’t take care of me at home. She sent me to an institution, where I spent most of my childhood.
I didn’t go anywhere, except church, and would see my mother maybe twice or three times a year. That’s why I think I have the authority to tell parents not to do that to their children. Give them all your love and think very thoroughly before you bring a child to the world.
He began singing at a young age and eventually ran away to start a career at 15.
“When I was 15, all I knew was that I had to be somebody and that I could be somebody. So I exploited the only thing I knew, which was singing and songwriting,” he told the newspaper. “Even if my childhood had been different, I would’ve still sung. But the (hardships) gave me strength and made me realize that I must do something if I wanted to get out of that situation. I’m glad it paid off.”
4. He Is Survived by His 4 Children
Juan Gabriel is survived by his four children, Jean, Jean, Ivan, and Joan. He was not married.
“I’m not married; I don’t ever plan to marry. I’m happy single,” Juan Gabriel said in his biography, according to ABC News. “I have many loves but the most important are: my mother, my children, my sister, my brothers, my nieces and nephews and my songs.”
5. He Performed Several Benefit Concerts Each Year to Support Children’s Homes & Charities
Juan Gabriel was known for being active in charity work, often performing benefit concerts to support children’s homes.
In December 2015, after having to postpone a charity show, he made a $100,000 personal donation to charities in the Santa Fe, New Mexico, area.
He founded a school, Semjase, for orphan and underserved children ages 6 to 12, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, but it closed after the 2015 school year because of financial issues. He was working to have the school reopened.