Mexican singer José José who was an elegant dresser and moved audiences to tears with melancholic love songs and was known as the “Prince of Song,” has died at the age of 71.
ANDI, the Mexican artists’ association confirmed his death on Twitter on Saturday. Multiple media outlets reported that the singer died of pancreatic cancer at the hospital in South Florida.
José José was born José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz. He climbed to the top of the Latin charts in the ‘70s with ballads like “El Triste” or “The Sad Man,” and “Amar y querer” or “Love and Want.” José José had a powerful voice and the ability to sing technically difficult scores in a wide range that made him a treasured cultural icon in Latin America.
He music became so popular in other countries including Japan and Russia.
The singer’s voice was a combination of baritone and lyric tenor. His voice captivated audiences while his style of suits accented with bow ties, pocket handkerchiefs, and silk scarves were copied at nightclubs across Latin America.
He squeezed our hearts with his unmistakable voice and left an indelible mark on the world of music,” said Latin music star Gloria Estefan on Twitter.
José José was born into a musical family. On Feb. 17, 1948, in Mexico City, his mother, Margarita Ortiz Pensado, was a concert pianist and is father was a tenor in the National Opera of Mexico, according to Page Six.
The singer added the second José to his name to honor his father, who died when the singer was 17. The father abandoned the family when he was young.
“I wanted to honor the memory of my father, who was a great opera singer and died very young without knowledge of my success. Since I inherited his voice, this is recognition to that inheritance,” José José told the Associated Press in an interview in 2005.
José José started out singing in cafes before he founded a rock group called the Heart Breakers. They launched an unsuccessful album in the mid-‘60s. His solo career took off with his single, “La nave del olvido” or “The Ship of the Forgotten.” His career peaked in the ‘80s with albums like “Secrets,” which was his best-selling collaboration with Spanish love song composer and producer Manuel Alejandro.
The singer has struggled with Lyme disease, facial paralysis, substance abuse, and depression. His addiction to alcohol and drugs led to the 1993 dissolution of his 18-year marriage with model Anel Noreña. The couple had two children: José Joel y Marisol. Following the separation, he hit rock bottom and began sleeping in a taxi on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. Friends intervened and toll him to a substance abuse treatment center in the U.S.
In 1995, the singer married again to a Cuban-American named Sarita Salazar. He met her while he was in rehab. The following year, the couple had a daughter named Sara.
On multiple occasions, José José has been nominated for a Grammy, but he did not obtain the prize. The Latin Recording Academy recognized him with a Musical Excellence Prize at the 2004 Latin Grammy Awards. That same year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In his later years, he had problems with his voice that made it difficult for him to sing. It took the singer seven days to prepare for his concert with pianist and composer Yanni.
Yanni said, “He fought really hard for every sound.”
The Mexican icon confirmed via video message to his fans in March 2017 that he was struggling with pancreatic cancer. “I’m ready to face this new adventure in my life hand-in-hand with God and hand-in-hand with you all.”
José José’s death has hit Mexico hard. They endured the death of another cherished singer from the same era: Juan Gabriel.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was saddened by the news of the singer’s death. “He was an extraordinary singer from an era that, with his songs and his romanticism, made a lot of people from my generation cry and be happy.”
By Jeanette Smith
Page Six: Legendary Mexican singer José José dead at 71
TMZ: Latin Singer Jose Jose Deat at 71
Rolling Stone: This Week in Latin Music: José José Dies at 71, Inside the Grammys Backlash
Image Courtesy of World’s Direction’s Flckr Page – Public Domain License