We’ve all seen “Shawshank Redemption.” Andy Defresne locks himself in the warden’s office with a lone record player and plays a song so intensely majestic than even a confined world like the prison he’s trapped in must stop and listen as homage. This is the same feeling I’ve sometime experienced when listening to Juan Gabriel singing one of his iterations of “Querida,” especially versions with Juanes or Raul di Blasio.
As a fan of music regardless of language, learning Spanish opened a new world to me. Several artists taught me that others languages could convey sublime reminders of life rather than just dull ways to say ‘chair.’ While not a huge fan of all the genres in Spanish, I’ve never failed to find artists or songs who strike me deeply. Juan Gabriel was one of those artists who would come from left field and sing over my shoulder. He sang in multiple genres successfully; even when I wasn’t thrilled with a particular song, I knew he would follow up soon enough with something spectacular.
He became the first living artist to have all 3 #1 Latin album spots on the charts simultaneously at the beginning of this year. His career was long and ended on a brilliant high note. Most English-speaking people probably are unfamiliar with Juan Gabriel, his musical legacy, or the immense sea of fans he left behind.
He died yesterday in Santa Monica.
(While I was writing this, I looked on CNN Español to discover that Gene Wilder, a comedy genius in his own right, has died. These kinds of coincidences always throw me a curve ball. It is surreal to be writing one eulogy and read in another language that another icon has left the stage.)