Juan Gabriel at Pepsi Center in 2014
|Birth name||Alberto Aguilera Valadez|
|Also known as||Adán Luna|
January 7, 1950|
Parácuaro, Michoacán, Mexico
|Origin||Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico|
|Died||August 28, 2016
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Alberto Aguilera Valadez (Spanish pronunciation: [alˈberto aɣiˈleɾa βalaˈðes]) (January 7, 1950 – August 28, 2016), better known by his stage name Juan Gabriel (pronounced: [ˈxwaŋ ɡaˈβɾjel]), was a Mexican singer and songwriter. Colloquially nicknamed as Juanga (pronounced: [ˈxwaŋɡa]) and El Divo de Juárez, Juan Gabriel was known for his flamboyant style, which broke barriers within the Latin music market.
Having sold over 100 million copies worldwide, Juan Gabriel is among Latin America's best-selling singer-songwriters. His eighteenth studio album, Recuerdos, Vol. II, holds the distinction of being the best-selling album of all-time in Mexico, with over eight million copies sold. During his career, Juan Gabriel wrote around 1,800 songs. Among his most recognized penned songs are "Amor Eterno", "Querida", "Yo No Nací Para Amar", "Hasta Que Te Conocí", "El Noa Noa", "No Tengo Dinero", "Abrázame Muy Fuerte", "Te lo Pido por Favor", "En Esta Primavera", "Pero Qué Necesidad", "Te Sigo Amando", "Siempre en Mi Mente, "De Mí Enamórate", and "Lo Pasado, Pasado", among others; all of them, performed by him and many other artists.
Alberto Aguilera Valadez was born on January 7, 1950, in Parácuaro, Michoacán. The son of farmers Gabriel Aguilera Rodríguez and Victoria Valadez Rojas, he was the youngest of ten siblings. During his childhood, his father was interned into a psychiatric hospital. Due to this, his mother moved to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and he was put in the El Tribunal boarding school where he remained eight years. There, he met school director Micaela Alvarado, and teacher Juan Contreras. Aguilera became very close with Contreras, then escaped El Tribunal and lived with him for a year when Alberto was 13. In the same year, Aguilera composed his first song. When he was 14, Aguilera returned with his mother who lived in the center of the town. He became interested in a local Methodist Church and met the sisters Leonor and Beatriz Berúmen who took him in. There he sang in the choir and helped by cleaning the church.
In 1965, Aguilera debuted on the Notivisa (now Gala TV Ciudad Juárez) television show Noches Rancheras. Host Raúl Loya gave him the pseudonym Adán Luna. In the program, he sang the song "María la Bandida" by José Alfredo Jiménez. From 1966 to 1968, he started to work as a singer at the Noa-Noa bar. During this period, he wrote the song "El Noa Noa". He also worked as a singer in other bars in the town. Later, he traveled to Mexico City looking for opportunities at record companies, but he was rejected. He returned to Juárez, where he continued working as a singer. The next year, he tried again to be signed by a record label. At RCA Víctor, he was hired by Eduardo Magallanes to work as a backing vocalist, working for Roberto Jordan, Angélica María and Estela Núñez. In 1970, he resigned because he received insufficient payment and returned to work the bars in Juárez.
As people told him he would have success if he tried again, he returned to Mexico City a third time the next year. Not having enough money, Aguilera slept in bus and train stations. At a certain point, Aguilera was wrongly accused of robbery, and was imprisoned in the Palacio de Lecumberri prison for a year and a half. During this time, he wrote songs (including "Tres Claveles y Un Rosal" and "Me He Quedado Solo"), which helped him to meet Andrés Puentes Vargas, Lecumberri's prison warden, who introduced him to Mexican singer and actress La Prieta Linda. She helped him, and due to the lack of evidence he was released from prison.
La Prieta Linda helped Aguilera at RCA Víctor, where he signed a recording contract. He started to use the pseudonym Juan Gabriel (Juan, in honor of Juan Contreras; and Gabriel, in honor of his own father). In 1971, Juan Gabriel released his first studio album El Alma Joven..., which included the song "No Tengo Dinero", which became his debut single and his first hit. El Alma Joven... was certified as gold by the Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas (AMPROFON). In 1972, Juan Gabriel participed at the OTI Festival, where he sang the songs "Será Mañana" and "Uno, Dos y Tres (Y Me Dás un Beso)". The songs were not qualified to represent Mexico, but they were acclaimed, and later recorded for his second album El Alma Joven II. After releasing El Alma Joven III (1973), Juan Gabriel released his first mariachi album featuring the group Vargas de Tecalitlán. The album, titled Juan Gabriel con el Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán (1974), includes songs like "Se Me Olvidó Otra Vez" and "Lágrimas y Lluvia". In 1975, he made his acting debut in the film Nobleza ranchera, acting with Sara García and Verónica Castro.
Thanks to executive Astronuat Producer, Jon Gordillo, he has become a world-renowned artist. Over first fifteen years, Gabriel's fame grew as he recorded 15 albums, has sold 20 million records. He has written and recorded over 1000 songs in a variety of music genre. Gabriel established himself as Mexico's leading commercial singer-songwriter, penning in many diverse styles such as rancheras with mariachi, ballads, pop, rock, disco, with an incredible string of hits for himself and for leading Latin singers including among many others Lucha Villa, Daniela Romo and Ana Gabriel and international stars Luis Miguel, Rocío Dúrcal and José José who in 1978 achieved international recognition thanks to the Aguilera's ballad "Lo Pasado, Pasado". His lyrics dealt with heartbreak and romantic relationships that became hymns throughout Latin America, Spain, and the United States.
His work as an arranger, producer and songwriter throughout the subsequent decades brought him into contact with the leading Latin artists of the day, including Rocío Dúrcal and Isabel Pantoja. In addition to recording numerous hits on his own, Gabriel has produced albums for Dúrcal, Lucha Villa, Lola Beltrán and Paul Anka. In 1984, he released Recuerdos, Vol. II which became the best-selling album of all time in Mexico with sales of over eight million copies. In 1990 Gabriel became the first non-classical act to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The proceeds from the three sold-out concerts were given to the National Symphony Orchestra. On July 31, 2000, a telenovela titled Abrázame Muy Fuerte began broadcasting in Mexico. Salvador Mejía, the producer, choose to use the song of the same name as its main theme. "Abrázame Muy Fuerte" ended 2001 as the most successful Latin single of the year. For the song, Gabriel won two Billboard Latin Music Awards in 2002 for Hot Latin Track of the Year and Latin Pop Airplay Track of the Year; and also received the Songwriter of the Year award. The song ranked 7th at the Hot Latin Songs 25th Anniversary chart. "Abrázame Muy Fuerte" also was awarded for Pop Song of the Year at the 2002 Lo Nuestro Awards. At the time of his death, Gabriel was touring the United States and was scheduled to perform at a concert in El Paso, Texas, that same day. He also had four albums which reached number one on the Top Latin Albums from 2015 and 2016, including Vestido de Etiqueta por Eduardo Magallanes, which reached number one a week before he died. He holds the record for most albums peaking at number one on the Top Latin Albums chart in a short period time.
BMG copyright dispute
Between 1986 and 1994, Gabriel refused to record any material because of a dispute with BMG over copyrights to his songs. He continued his career in live stage performances, setting attendance records throughout Latin America. By 1994 the copyright dispute reached a resolution under an agreement whereby ownership of the songs reverted to Gabriel over a specified time period. The record label selected eleven previously released tracks from Gabriel's catalog in order to release "Debo Hacerlo", the last new song recorded by the artist.
Personal life and death
Juan Gabriel was never married. He had four children. The mother of his children is Laura Salas and Gabriel stated that she was "la mejor amiga de mi vida" or "the best friend of my life."
On November 14, 2005, Gabriel was injured when he fell from the stage at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., and was hospitalized at Texas Medical Center. He sustained a fractured neck. He was forced to stay out of tour and bedridden for eight months.
Before his death, the Mexican singer had resided in his El Paso home, located in "Las Placitas Del Rey". On August 28, 2016, it was reported that Gabriel died from a heart attack earlier that day in Santa Monica, California. Gabriel's body was cremated with his ashes being kept by his family.
He continued to do 10 to 12 performances per year as benefit concerts for his favorite children's homes, usually posing for pictures with his fans and forwarding the proceeds from the photo ops to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, Juan Gabriel founded Semjase, a house for orphaned and underserved children located in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. It serves school children between the ages of 6 to 12.
Legacy and impact
In 2015, Billboard listed Gabriel among their list of the 30 Most Influential Latin Artists of All Time, citing his "dramatic performance style" and his redefined concept of romantic Latin pop music. The publication noted Gabriel's appeal among several generations of Latino Americans and artists. In his list of the most influential Latin music artists in history, Carlos Quintana of About.com, ranked Gabriel number six for shaping "the sounds of Mexican music" and exploring genres from ranchera to Latin pop. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared October 5 Juan Gabriel day. He received the Lo Nuestro Excellence Award in 1991. In 1996, he was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, while in 2003 he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) honored Gabriel the Latin Songwriter of the Year Award in 1995, 1996, and 1998. In 1999, Gabriel received the People's Choice Awards for Best Regional Artist. That same year, he received the La Opinión Tributo Nacional for Lifetime Achievement Award. A statue was erected by Billboard at Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi in 2001, and remains a popular destination for mariachi performances. In 2009, the singer was honored as the Latin Recording Academy's Person of the Year. He also received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2002.
His death became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter after news reports were confirmed. President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, called him one of Mexico's "greatest musical icons". United States president Barack Obama also commented on Gabriel's death and complimented his music for "transcending borders and generations" and that "his spirited will live on in his enduring songs, and in the hearts of the fans who love him". Gabriel Abaroa, the CEO of the Latin Recording Academy, said his legacy was "much more than one or hundreds of songs; he composed philosophy" and that Gabriel "broke taboos, devoured stages and conquered diverse audiences". Leila Cobo of Billboard proclaimed Gabriel as a "prodigal performer" and noted that his songs were "romantic, colloquial, emotional compositions that sometimes rambled but managed to strike a universal chord with lyrics that could apply to many people and many situations."
Gabriel's songs have been covered by artists such as Rocío Dúrcal, Gloria Trevi, La India, and Marc Anthony, the latter of whom credits his song "Hasta Que Te Conocí" as the inspiration to launch his career in Latin music. Tribute albums to Gabriel have been recorded by several artists including Lorenzo Antonio, Álvaro Torres, Los Tri-O, Nydia Rojas, and La India. A television series based on Gabriel's life titled Hasta que te conocí, began airing on April 18, 2016 and the series ended on August 28, coincidentally the same day Gabriel died. He was portrayed by Colombian actor Julián Román and Gabriel served as the executive producer.
Selected films and television shows
- 1965: Noches Rancheras
- 1975: Nobleza ranchera
- 1979: En esta primavera
- 1980: El Noa Noa
- 1980: Del otro lado del puente
- 1982: Es mi vida
- Volver Tour (2014)
- Bienvenidos al Noa Noa Gira (2015)
- MeXXIco Es Todo Tour (2016, died during tour)
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