On August 28th, 2016 Latin America´s heart broke. “Il Divo de Juarez”, “JuanGa”, Juan Gabriel, died of a heart attack while on Tour in the United States. I rang my mom at 10:30 p.m. when I heard the news, and I am still coming to terms with it.
Hasta Que Te Conocí – Juan Gabriel
Juan Gabriel was the singer my mom and her friends listened to. A good singer, a great entertainer and a BRILLIANT songwriter, he taught my generation about love and heartbreak to through his songs and his voice and also unforgettable musical partnership with Rocio Durcal. This Mexican super-star is now a legend whose music will shine on for years to come.
He was the artist everyone knew at school, beloved and criticized for his strong mannerisms, his glitter covered Mariachi outfits, a constant victim of rumors surrounding his sexuality, a favorite and must for comedic impersonators. And we must not forget the viral event that his fall became. All that aside, the man brought rancheras to a different level, turning them into a pop charting phenomena with his mix of genres (ranchera, pop, ballads, Norteño songs) and making all Spanish speakers fall in love with the pain, anguish and rawness depicted in his lyrics.
The song below was made famous by Rocío Durcal, and even though he does a great version, I cannot post it because this song is him. Even when she sings it. Some people say its the hymn of Spain and Mexico (Rocío Durcal was Spanish and Juan Gabriel Mexican). It is a song that everyone in Latin America knows and sings out loud. It’s also a song played in almost every funeral/wake in most of those countries. He wrote it for his mother.
Amor Eterno – Rocío Durcal (written by Juan Gabriel)
Alberto Aguilera Valadez was born into poverty on January 7th, 1950, and in his 66 years on this planet he managed to break down not only music and language barriers but also he was able to live his life on his own terms, not falling to the pressure of what Mexican ‘machos’ expected him to be. He sold more than 100 million albums and had his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He wrote his first song when he was 13 years old, and would write more than 1500, most of them ballads.
He was nominated for a 6 Grammy awards, inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame and received several awards.
Costumbres – Juan Gabriel
This verse is one of my favorite lyrics.
“There’s no doubt that it’s true
that habits are strongerthan love.”
The youngest of ten siblings, his father was sent to a psychiatric hospital, and mother could not take care of him, so he was put in an orphanage where he became close to the school director and a teacher. He lived with the teacher Juan Contreras for a year and when he was thirteen he became a member of the Methodist church and began singing in the choir. He had his debut at 14 on a TV show called “Noches Rancheras”. By then he had written several songs, and he started to work as a singer at the Noa Noa bar. He also worked in other bars in town. It took him more than one attempt to break trough in Mexico. I guess that is where he got his style of singing to the fallen, the defeated, about getting up again, and probably since we can all relate this was why he became Mexico´s most commercially successful singer-songwriter.
Querida – Juan Gabriel
Now, I will say that even though this is a very famous song I think its cheesy. Like VERY CHEESY. But, everyone has their guilty pleasures and this is one of mine ( and I suspect several million others). Once I was in a bus in my hometown. I would say there were about 15 people on the bus. No one was traveling together, every one was sitting down in a window or aisle seat, but everyone by themselves. This song came on. I started humming along, then quietly mouthing the words, then singing softly to it. By the time the chorus kicked in, everyone was singing along. ALOUD. Everyone. That was the power Juan Gabriel had. Joining strangers together on singalongs on buses. MAGIC.
Now I will leave you with my favorite song by him. This song alone would have made him famous. (Find a friend to translate this for you, preferably while toasting in his name with a tequila).
te has olvidado.
Y mientras tanto yo,
te seguiré esperando.
No me he querido ir
para ver si algún día
que tu quieras volver
me encuentres todavía.
Por eso aun estoy
en el lugar de siempre,
en la misma cuidad,
y con la misma gente,
para que tu al volver
no encuentres nada extraño
y sea como ayer
y nunca más dejarnos.
Se me olvidaba que
ya habíamos terminado,
que nunca volverás,
que nunca me quisiste.
Se me olvido otra vez
que solo yo te quise.
Se Me Olvidó Otra Vez – Juan Gabriel