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Alt.Latino Pays Tribute To Juan Gabriel

Juan Gabriel performs in Las Vegas in 2009.
Jason Merritt
Getty Images for LARAS
Juan Gabriel performs in Las Vegas in 2009.

Editor's note: This is an Encore presentation of of our Juan Gabriel tribute published last year shortly after his untimely death.

It takes time to explain an artist like Juan Gabriel to those unfamiliar with who he was. The singer, who died Sunday, was practically a household name throughout the Spanish-speaking world, but his death caused hardly a blip of recognition among most of those who'd tuned in to MTV's Video Music Awards the night of his death.

That's what Alt.Latino is for.

For this week's episode, we gathered a few folks to come play some of their favorite Juan Gabriel tracks — not only to mourn his death, but also to unpack his immense popularity and success. As you'll hear, the answers are both complex and simple, much like JuanGa's cultural impact.

Once you get an idea of why he was such a big deal, I think you may agree that in an age when music fans often listen only to what they already like, we may never see another performer have this kind of personal impact on so many people.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latinx musicians, actors, filmmakers, and writers. He has hosted and produced Alt.Latino episodes from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, and throughout the U.S. since the show started in 2010.