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Mexican music icon Juan Gabriel dead at 66

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Posted at 1:38 PM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-29 13:38:38-04

Juan Gabriel wooed audiences with soulful ballads that made him a Latin American music legend.

For devoted fans around the world, his romantic rancheras were go-to tunes in the soundtracks of their lives.

The 66-year-old music star died in Santa Monica, California, on Sunday morning, two days after a sold-out show and hours before he was set to perform a concert in El Paso, Texas.

A cheering crowd at a Los Angeles arena heard him sing to them onstage for the last time.

Word of the iconic performer’s death sparked an outpouring of condolences from political leaders, rock stars and fans.

Mourners flocked to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to share memories and pay tribute as Gabriel’s music played in the background.

Telenovela of his life story was set to air

Gabriel, whose legal name was Alberto Aguilera Valadez, died of natural causes, Los Angeles County Coroner spokeswoman Selena Barros said.

He had 15 other US tour dates scheduled through early December, and his life story was set to be told in a telenovela airing on Telemundo.

A statement on the singer’s official website announced his 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.'”

100 million records sold

In his 45-year career, Gabriel sold more than 100 million records, according to his website. He also wrote songs for other artists and appeared in the 1975 Mexican film, “Nobleza Ranchera,” and four other movies.

He was nominated for numerous Grammys and was inducted into Billboard’s Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

“We lament the death of Juan Gabriel, one of the biggest musical icons of our country,” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Twitter Sunday.

He added, “A voice and a talent that represented Mexico. His music is a legacy to the world. He left us too soon. May he rest in peace.”

Known to his fans as El Divo de Juarez, Juan Gabriel led Billboard magazine’s Top Latin Albums charts five times between 2016 and 2015.

“More leaders than any other artist in that span of time,” according to Billboard.

His website lists more than 60 albums, with the first, “El Alma Joven,” produced in 1971. His classic hits include “Querida,” “Porqué me haces llorar?” “El Noa Noa” and “Hasta que te conocí.”

‘Like losing a family member’

Fans flocked to social media to share their memories — many of them rooted in childhood and family — of the man whose ballads resonated throughout their lives. Many said his death brought them to tears.

One fan tweeted that losing Gabriel “is like losing a family member..he was always at every party and event.”

Another fan wrote: “In the next few days, he’ll be called Mexico’s Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc. Don’t believe it. Juan Gabriel was singular.”

The death of Gabriel brought up memories of people’s childhood, waking up to his music in the morning. “I think every Latino household has had the memory of waking up to Juan Gabriel music blasting at least once,” wrote another fan.

Gabriel was remembered for his impact. “We lost our Prince, our Bowie, our Elton John. Juan Gabriel broke stereotypes in our community for decades,” tweeted Mariana Atencio, a news anchor on Fusion and Univison.