Juan Gabriel was born on January 7, 1950, in Paracuaro, Michoacan, Mexico. He grew up in Juarez, the son of a single mother who worked as a housekeeper. Later in life, Gabriel purchased the home where she worked. Gabriel started writing songs at the age of 13, and under the name Adam Luna, he began performing in nightclubs in downtown Juarez. One of the songs was inspired by this experience. After moving to Mexico City, he started performing under Juan Gabriel and released his first song. Over the next fourteen years, he gained international fame and even appeared in several movies, including Nobleza Ranchera and Del Otro Lado del Puerto. Unfortunately, just as his career was rising, an eight-year legal battle ensued over the copyrights to his songs. However, in 1994 BMG reached an agreement with the singer, and he began recording again. A year later, three of his songs reached the Top 40 on Billboard’s Latin radio charts. In 1995 he won the award for ASCAP Songwriter of the year.
The following year, he was inducted into the Latin Music Hall of Fame. Between 1999 and 2010, he released an album a year. Afterward, he spent time focusing on touring and producing other artists. He celebrated 40 years in music by performing at the Bellas Artes theatre in Mexico. Gabriel was inducted into the Latin Songwriter’s Hall of fame in January 2014. The following year, he released Los Duo, a two-part collection of his hits sung with other Latin artists, including Marc Anthony. Gabriel was a six-time Grammy-nominated artist and one of Mexico’s most well-known songwriters. He was also a renowned producer whose songs were covered by many artists, including Ana Gabriel and Isabel Pantoja. In 2016, he released a greatest hits album featuring remixes of his classic hits backed by a symphony orchestra. Sadly, less than a month after its released, Gabriel died on August 28, 2016, in Santa Monica, California. These are the 10 best Juan Gabriel songs of all time.
10. Se Me Olvido Otra Vez (I Forgot Again)
The song starts out with slow Mariachi and Spanish Guitar. Gabriel’s voice sounds meaningful. As the music progresses, a violin becomes part of the background adding a lilting quality. Many times in a song, the brass section overpowers a lot of the song. However, it’s skillfully added much the same way you might hear a guitar solo.
9. Caray (Gee Whiz)
The opening of this song is an infusion of traditional Mexican music and country music. The music remains steady throughout with a rhythmic beat. Despite many people’s preconceptions with accordions, like many other songs with a Spanish influence, it makes a pleasant addition without sounding jarring or ill-placed.
8. Yo No Naci Para Amar (I Wasn’t Born To Love)
According to Lyrics Translate, the song is about adolescence and wanting to fall in love. Everything about the song has a wistful atmosphere, even evoking Pariesienne folk music in some sections. Gabriel’s voice sounds passionate and dynamic. Undoubtedly, this song is a personal story from his days growing up in Mexico City.
7. Ya No Vivo Por Vivr (I No Longer Live For Living (featuring Natalia Lafourcade)
This song is a ballad that opens up with a symphonic piano combination that elegantly fades to the background as Lafourcade and Gabriel’s voices shine in the forefront. Like other songs in a piece of foreign music, the emotion of the song translates itself. It’s a plaintive love song with dynamic vocals that harmonize well without overshadowing the other.
6. Ya Lo Se Tu Te Vas (I Already Know)
Dreaminess and sadness are showcased throughout this song. Gabriel’s voice has an ethereal voice highlighted by soft Spanish guitars. It’s easy to get lost in the tragic lyrics about someone’s love who is leaving, and they are unsure when and if they will ever return. The symphonic accompaniment in the song pair well with the crescendos of his voice.
5. El Noa Noa (The Noa Noa)
Although there are several translations for the word Noa, the most likely inspiration for this song was a painting by Paul Gaugin by the same title because both celebrate the fun of being with women and enjoying the evening. Typically, Gabriel has many runs in his songs when his voice is strong and commands the song. However, this is an upbeat song about dancing and enjoying life.
4. Por Que Me Haces Llorar (Why You Make Me Cry)
Even though there are symphonic elements in this song, it sounds more like Spanish folk music than Mariachi’s more brass-heavy sound. Throughout the ballad, there is peace and happiness with a steady rhythm. A brief trumpet interlude breaks other song sections to add some of what many people feel is traditional music in this genre.
3. La Muerte del Palomo (The Death of the Dove)
Even though there is warmth and positivity in this song, the lyrics are both complicated and sad. Gabriel sings about a pair of doves separated in death. One left behind never gets over the loss of his partner and spends life wanting to be with her again. Parallels can be drawn in the song’s lyrics because many people who find the love of their life can never get over their absence and spend life in a constant state of grief.
2. No Tengo Dinero (I Have No Money)
A lot of love songs transcend class barriers. However, others never make it past financial difficulties. Gabriel’s song is a sweet love song, but the song’s character feels that he doesn’t deserve to be with the one he’s with because he can’t provide her everything she wants. This is another song in Gabriel’s that fuses traditional music from his youth with a more modern feel that helped him gain a diverse fan base.
1. Abrazame Muy Fuerte (Hold Me Very Close)
Gabriel’s song is distant and melodious. His voice nears a whisper over a piano while violins sweep across the combination. As the theme continues, a few hesitant crescendos are returning back to the softer music. However, near the middle of the song, everything opens up, and Gabriel’s voice elevates over the background and shines with a simple power.