Juan Gabriel was found dead in Los Angeles on Sunday, and the cause of death for the Mexican singing superstar reportedly remains a mystery.
The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner reported Gabriel’s death on Sunday, noting that the so-called “Divo of Juarez” was found dead in his home in Santa Monica, NPR reported. The singer, whose real name was Alberto Aguilera Valadez, was 66.
Word of Gabriel’s death was officially released by his representatives on Sunday, ABC News reported. Though there was still no information about Juan Gabriel’s cause of death, publicist Arturo de la Mora told The Associated Press that the singer passed away at 11:30 a.m. in his home.
“He has passed on to become part of eternity and has left us his legacy through Juan Gabriel, the character created by him for all the music that has been sung and performed all around the world,” Gabriel’s press office said in a statement.
There were some initial reports, including one from the Latin Post, that a heart attack was Juan Gabriel’s official cause of death. But there does not yet appear to be an official confirmation either from Gabriel’s family or representatives or from local medical officials.
Gabriel’s death prompted an outpouring of condolences and remembrances, including a tweet from Mexican President Enrique Peña-Nieto.
“His music is a legacy for the world,” he wrote. “A voice and a talent that represented Mexico. His music is a legacy to the world. He left us too soon. May he rest in peace.”
Juan Gabriel was known for his relentless work ethic, with constant tours and a total of 1,800 songs that stretched across genres, NPR noted. Gabriel had just performed on Friday at The Forum in Los Angeles and was scheduled for another concert on Sunday in El Paso, Texas.
Gabriel was known as a groundbreaking musician, ABC News noted, one who transcended genres and became the first commercial singer to perform at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, a forum that until then had only invited classical musicians.
That 1990 concert went on to become one of his most famous, and a live album titled Juan Gabriel live from the Palace of Fine Arts would go on to break records for sales.
Gabriel was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and won a slew of other awards, including ASCAP Songwriter of the Year in 1995 and Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year 2009. He was also nominated for six Grammy Awards.
Juan Gabriel was also known for his flamboyant nature, often being compared to Elton John. He had a large following within the LBGT community, with many of these groups mourning his passing on Sunday.
We lost our Prince, our Bowie, our Elton John. Juan Gabriel broke stereotypes in our community for decades pic.twitter.com/4mnB99OPeV— Mariana_Atencio (@marianaatencio) August 29, 2016
Gabriel’s story of rising up from poverty was also a major part of his identity. The youngest of 10 children, his mother was forced to give him up as a child and Gabriel grew up in an orphanage. While in school, Gabriel met a music teacher and mentor, Juan Contreras. Gabriel would later adopt the teacher’s name — and his father’s name — to come up with his stage name.
Gabriel didn’t find immediate success. He lived in Mexico City during his teenage years, sleeping on the streets and eventually going to jail after being accused of robbery.
As ABC News noted, it was the jail stint that helped kick off Gabriel’s career.
“I was good writing songs, but I was innocent for many other things and when I ended up in jail I didn’t know how to defend myself,” he told La Jornada.”
“The prison director and his wife helped get Juan Gabriel freed.”
“He signed his first record contract in 1971 and had his first big hit with ‘No tengo dinero’ (‘I don’t have any money’), according to his biography by Mexico’s Society of Music Authors and Composers.”
While social media filled with tributes to the legendary singer, many others wanted to know how Juan Gabriel died, though details were light as of Sunday night. Medical officials in Los Angeles County noted that there were no signs of foul play, but did not give information on the manner or cause of Gabriel’s death.
More information on Juan Gabriel’s cause of death is expected to be released later in a statement by his family.
[Photo by Rebecca Blackwell/AP Images]