The death of Latin American music legend Juan Gabriel is heartbreaking news for throngs of fans who’ve followed his music career for decades.
Others are learning about the late singer for the first time as tributes pour in.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or a new convert just getting acquainted with Gabriel’s work, here are five things you should know:
1. His chart-topping music set a record.
Gabriel led Billboard magazine’s Top Latin Albums charts five times in the past 18 months.
“More leaders than any other artist in that span of time,” according to Billboard.
2. Singers such as Marc Anthony and Juanes say he was a major influence.
Anthony told Billboard in a recent interview that he’d long been performing freestyle dance music and never imagined he’d sing salsa, until he heard Gabriel’s “Hasta Que Te Conoci” (“Until I Met You”).
“I swear I saw lights, I saw clarity,” Anthony said. “I knew the song was going to change my life.”
This year, the two singers collaborated on a salsa song.
3. Juan Gabriel wasn’t his real name.
Alberto Aguilera Valadez was born in Parácuaro, Mexico, in 1950. Juan Gabriel was a character he created for his music, as his website noted in a statement announcing the singer’s death.
“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,” the site said. “Juan Gabriel hasn’t died, as Alberto would say, ‘As long as someone exists who sings my songs, Juan Gabriel will live.’ “
The persona had distinctive looks to match.
Onstage, Gabriel’s flamboyant outfits were part of his signature style.
4. A clear sign that he was a legend: There’s a telenovela about his life.
Telemundo is set to air a telenovela about Gabriel’s life story. And what a story it was.
Gabriel “embodied the ‘rags to riches’ story,” Rolling Stone wrote in its tribute to the music star Monday.
“His mother left him at an orphanage at the age of four, an event Gabriel stated was his earliest memory,” the magazine said. “In his youth, Gabriel sang music he concocted in his head while selling tortillas on the street.”
5. Looking for love in all the wrong places? Trying to get a fresh start? Feeling folksy? There’s a Juan Gabriel song for that.
The singer’s music spanned across genres, becoming a major part of the soundtrack of the lives of many devoted fans.
He performed rock, pop and Mariachi, among other styles. And there was a lot of it.
According to his website, Gabriel wrote more than 1,000 songs and sold more than 100 million records.