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Mexican pop singer José José, considered to be one of the most prolific Latin balladeers of his generation, has died. He was 71.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017, he died Saturday in a Miami hospital.
During a singing, acting and producing career that spanned four decades, the renowned romantic vocalist saw dozens of his albums go gold or platinum, led by 1983’s Secretos (Secrets), which sold more than 7 million copies.
José José’s legacy will live on not only in Latin America but in the U.S. as well, where he played to sold-out crowds and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004. He also was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame and received a lifetime achievement award from the Latin Grammys.
José Romulo Sosa Ortiz — his stage name paid homage to his late father, who shared the same first name — earned the moniker “The Prince of Song” following the release of his 1976 studio album, El principe (The Prince).
José José will be remembered for such heartfelt ballads like “He Renunciado a Ti” (“I’ve Given Up on You”) and “El Triste” (“The Sad One”). The former continues to receive airplay on radio stations throughout Mexico and the U.S., and it will undoubtedly live on as a classic cry-in-your-beer sing-along in Mexico’s ubiquitous cantinas. “El Triste” was featured on the How to Be a Latin Lover soundtrack, the hit 2017 comedy film starring Eugenio Derbez and Salma Hayek.
José José acted in more than a dozen films and television shows, including Televisa’s version of Ugly Betty, and participated as a coach on the popular singing competition series Cantando por un sueno (Singing for a Dream).
He also co-wrote the 60-episode Telemundo bio-series José José: El Principe de la Cancion, a fictionalized, telenovela-esque account of his bumpy personal and professional life.
Born on Feb. 17, 1948, in Mexico City, José José was raised by musician parents; his mother was a concert pianist and his father an operatic tenor. At an early age, he launched his career in the city’s music clubs as a member of a trio that performed jazz and bossa nova numbers.
His major breakthrough as a solo artist came in the early ’70s with “El Triste,” an eventual No. 1 single.
José José battled alcoholism, drug addiction, emphysema, diabetes and pancreatic cancer during his life, and his career as a recording artist came to an end more than a decade ago when his vocal chords became irreversibly damaged, a likely victim of his lifestyle.
In his days of heavy drinking, he found himself dealing with money problems. Later, a sober José José blamed his financial woes on his addictions and claimed that one of his former wives had swindled him out of a large part of his fortune.
Numerous albums have been recorded in his honor, including 1998’s A Tribute to José José, which featured covers from top Latin acts including Café Tacuba, Julieta Venegas and Molotov.
He is survived by his third wife, Sara, and three children.
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