“Me nace del corazón,” or “it comes from the heart,” are words to one of Juan Gabriel’s greatest hits. This could very well encapsulate the feeling on display as stars and performers paid tribute to the late, legendary Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel at the Latin American Music Awards.
Three of Juan Gabriel’s closest friends in Latin music paid the stirring tribute, which took place at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on Thursday night. Lucero, host of Thursday night’s award show, as well as Angélica María, one of Mexico’s most enduring stars, spoke movingly of Juan Gabriel.
So did Mario Kreutzberger, best known as Don Francisco, who premieres a new show on Telemundo “Don Francisco Te Invita” Sunday night. “We know that what he gave us was love," said Don Francisco. "He loved his fans to whom he have all of himself.”
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Three women - Shaila Dúrcal, daughter of late Spanish singer Rocío Dúrcal; Aida Cuevas, Juan Gabriel’s close friend and collaborator known as the “ambassador of Mexican music” and Lila Downs, known for her anthems of social justice, all performed an eight-minute medley of the later singer's most beloved songs. They were accompanied by Juan Gabriel’s own “De Mi Tierra” mariachi, directed by lifelong collaborator Eduardo Magallanes.
Dúrcal, dressed in a sparkling gown and black shawl, performed a moving rendition of “Amor Eterno,” perhaps Juan Gabriel’s most beloved anthem about how love springs eternal, which her late mother popularized.
The performance, which echoed Rocío Dúrcal’s blend of Spanish sensibility and Mexican music, was particularly poignant to many because her mother and Juan Gabriel, who became Mexican music’s most iconic duo in the 1980s, had an acrimonious falling out in later years.
Cuevas then took to the stage in mariachi garb with a colorful sarape over her shoulder to perform “Te Sigo Amando.” The mariachi singer cried out lyrics to Juan Gabriel, with whom she went on tour with in 2015, which now seem all too fitting; “qué seas muy feliz, estés donde estés, cariño,” which translates to “I hope you’re very happy, wherever you may be, darling.”
That song then gave way to Mexican-American singer Lila Downs, who performed “Hasta Que Te Conocí.” That is also now the name of the Juan Gabriel bio series currently airing on Telemundo, which has been doubling rival Univision’s ratings on Sunday nights.
Downs, who fulfilled a lifelong dream of recording with Juan Gabriel a few years ago, was dressed in a floral dress paying homage to Mexico’s indigenous communities. The whole eight-minute performance, through the songs, dress, mariachi and even lighting and effects, paid a strong tribute to Mexico, the country Juan Gabriel loved so much and made proud on stages across the world.
The tribute wrapped up with three female vocalists singing along with mariachi singers and the band to one of Juan Gabriel’s earlier hits, “Me nace del corazón. The song repeats the following refrain: 'Telling you that you’re my life, comes from heart, I’m sorry to say I don’t know how to live without you.'”
It was a feeling shared by the star-studded audience at Dolby Theater that rose to their feet in a standing ovation less than two months after Juan Gabriel’s untimely death in the midst of his U.S.-Mexico tour.
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The “Latin American Music Awards,” now in its second year, is a spinoff of Dick Clark Production’s long-running “American Music Awards.” Like its English-language counterpart, the fans vote for the stars who take the prize at the awards show.
Telemundo, SOMOS Productions and Dick Clark Productions produced the awards show.
Juan Gabriel, the larger-than-life Mexican singing-songwriting superstar, died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 66 on August 28th in Santa Monica, California; just miles from Thursday night’s homage.