The late Juan Gabriel was a superstar musician beloved around the world, far beyond the borders of his native Mexico.
On Tuesday Reviewsday, music journalist Justino Aguila and Billboard's Leila Cobo share some of Gabriel's best and the best of those who covered him.
"Amor Eterno" (Eternal Love)
Justino: This song is one that Juan Gabriel dedicated to all the mothers that went to see his show and to the mothers that are above in heaven as he would point to the skies during his shows.
The opening lyrics especially critical in this song that really is a composition for his mother who he was separated from the age of 3 to about 14.
Leila: In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Juan Gabriel spoke about spending time with an African-American family in Lake Elsinore when he was young.
"That's where I was first exposed to African American music," Gabriel said. "And I knew then that if there was a God, and if God was listening, he was listening to African-American music.”
That would explain in part his vocal style. You can certainly hear the influence.
"Hasta Que Te Conoci" (Until I Met You), as sung by Marc Anthony
Justino: This song is about being mistreated by a lover; an extremely heart-wrenching song. This Marc Anthony version gives a whole other perspective that works so brilliantly in this version of the that appeared on Marc’s Desde Un Principio.
The song is given new life through his salsa rendition that still packs a strong and emotional punch, but this version also moves in a kind of upbeat way thanks to this arrangement so beautifully performed by Marc.
Abrazame Muy Fuerte (Embrace Me Tight)
Justino: This song comes alive with the backing of a full orchestra. Add to that the lyrics of loving someone so deeply as Juan Gabriel so delicately illustrates in his writing and composition and you get a classic Juan Gabriel song that was his seventh No. 1 single on the Billboard Top Latin Songs chart.
Juan Gabriel also had a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Pop album for this song, but didn’t take home the prize. In fact, Juan Gabriel never won a Grammy or Latin Grammy, but he was recognized as the Latin Grammy person of the year in 2009 and earlier this year he received the Star Award at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Leila: In the last two years, Juan Gabriel (real name Alberto Aguilera Valadez) had reached perhaps a new apex in his career:.He had the highest-grossing Latin tour of 2015 and the top-selling album. He was one of Billboard’s top earners of 2015, too, which is a huge accomplishment.
And on September 11, Telemundo will premiere a series based on his life. At 66, Juan Gabriel was living a new wave of popularity.
"Querida/Menina" (Dear) as performed by Bruno e Marrone from Brazil
Justino: This is a very special version of "Querida," which has been beloved and recorded by many, but sung in Portuguese by Brazilian musicians Bruno e Marrone. There was also a version from Colombian singer/songwriter Juanes.
"Se Me Olvido Otra Vez" (I Forgot Again) as performed by Maná
Justino: Go to a Maná concert and this is usually one of their cover songs, which stands out as a Latin rock version of the song by Juan Gabriel. Maná performed this just a few days ago in Monterrey, Mexico, during one of their shows and dedicated it to Juan Gabriel.
"El Noa Noa"
Justino: Juan Gabriel wrote this song in the early ‘80s as an homage to a little bar in Juarez, Mexico. The bar was called El Noa Noa and it really became kind of like the party theme song at this concerts where everyone usually stands up to cheer Juan Gabriel.
Leila: Part of the reason he endures today, beyond his phenomenal shows, is his songs. He has 660 registered compositions with Universal, which have been covered in 25 languages around the world. His music is versatile, and transcends genres and language.