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SoCal fans mourn iconic Mexican singer Juan Gabriel




Honoree Juan Gabriel performs onstage during the 2009 Person of the Year honoring Juan Gabriel held at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Nov. 4, 2009 in Las Vegas.
Honoree Juan Gabriel performs onstage during the 2009 Person of the Year honoring Juan Gabriel held at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Nov. 4, 2009 in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Honoree Juan Gabriel performs onstage during the 2009 Person of the Year honoring Juan Gabriel held at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Nov. 4, 2009 in Las Vegas.
Singer Juan Gabriel performs onstage during the 10th annual Latin Grammy Awards held at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Nov. 5, 2009 in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images


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L.A. fans of Juan Gabriel had no idea that when they watched the legendary Mexican singer perform his classics like "Así Fue" and "Inocente Pobre Amigo" at the Forum in Inglewood on Friday night, it would be for the last time. Gabriel died Sunday morning at age 66, according to the Associated Press.

Southern California fans of Gabriel are remembering a towering figure who transcended pop music to become a cultural icon for millions.

"This is huge, this is bigger than Elvis for us," said Raquel Gutiérrez, a poet and writer who grew up in Southeast L.A.'s Huntington Park. For people who grew up in Spanish-speaking households, there really is no comparison, she said.

"This passing is super-deeply felt and will probably impact us for years to come, because there is no one like Juan Gabriel," said Gutiérrez.

Spanish radio stations opened up their phone lines for fans to share their favorite songs and memories of Gabriel. The singer-songwriter’s rancheras and ballads could be heard spilling out of cars and clothing stores in Santa Ana.

“We feel really sad,” said Adriana Munoz, who played Gabriel all day Sunday.

“One of our good singers is gone again,” she said. “We just lost John Sebastian and now him.”

Santa Ana resident Celeste Chavez, who is originally from the same Mexican state as Gabriel — Michoacán — said the vocalist cared about his country and people who moved to the U.S. His words, both in song and interviews, were always inspiring, she said.

“A lot of Latinos sing his songs because they feel the feeling,” said Chavez. “He spoke through his music.”

Gabriel spent more than four decades topping pop charts with his singular take on romantic ballads, filling stadiums and selling more than 100 million albums. In recent years, he explored collaborating with younger artists, such as Natalie Lafourcade on the song "Ya No Vivo Por Vivir."

Ya No Vivo Por Vivir ft. Natalia Lafourcade

"He just defines ballads like no one else," said music journalist Justino Aguila. "He was so poetic, so strong in his lyric writing and his composing. It's just kind of music that makes you melt."

“Even my son who is bilingual, although he speaks little Spanish, he listens to Juan Gabriel and is able to understand just through the sentiment of the song,” said Sylvester Sanchez of Brea in Spanish. “Juan Gabriel doesn’t sing just to sing.” 

Many people took to social media to remember the singer and reflect on his impact on their lives. Share how Juan Gabriel's music has impacted you on KPCC's Facebook, or tag us on Twitter and Instagram.

https://twitter.com/therealValverde/status/770129713620803585

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJtCOKwBWX1/?tagged=juan

https://twitter.com/1phototeach/status/770036674583793664

From fans who attended Friday's show:

Several people said Gabriel's music is the soundtrack to their childhood memories:

https://twitter.com/YoJessicaFlores/status/770025827060813825

People also paid tribute by covering and lip syncing his songs:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJs4b3lBrKo/?tagged=juan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJtAt1pBTxO/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJtAmj-DYUx/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJtAY89gEdK/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJs_59PDa7Y/

Condolences poured out from celebrities and public figures:

https://twitter.com/EPN/status/770014761157267456

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto: "I'm sorry for the death of Juan Gabriel, one of the great musical icons of our country. My condolences to his family and friends."

https://twitter.com/zoesaldana/status/770039923911032832

Zoe Saldana: "Rest in peace Juan Gabriel. I’m so, so sorry about the news of your passing, but I'm thankful for everything that you gave me through song!"

https://twitter.com/juanes/status/770022169053102080

JUANES: "I'm left without words to express my immense sadness at the departure of the great @soyjuangabriel. His music and spirit live forever."

https://twitter.com/OscarDeLaHoya/status/770123928194916352

https://twitter.com/MarcAnthony/status/770323440557559812

Marc Anthony: "A night dedicated to my dear brother @soyjuangabriel we lost another angel. Watch over us." 

Here's a live performance of "Así Fue" from 2015:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQtSdgg9DwI

And a classic live performance of "Querida," one of Gabriel's most enduring songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NS8DX4mVhxM

This story has been updated.