For readers who don’t already know, What’s Up does giveaways every other week. Winners’ reactions vary. Some people forget that they ever entered them. Some ask, “Who?” or “What?” when we tell them that they won tickets to so and so. And some are absolutely stoked.

Last Friday, when our marketer Erin Pfirman called one woman who won tickets to see Juan Gabriel, the winner was just about in tears, exclaiming, “OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod!” Her happiness over the phone call was so infectious that it rubbed off on the rest of us.

So you can imagine that when we got the news that he died on Sunday before he could even make it to El Paso, we were not only sad about his passing in general, but also about all of those who were heartbroken about their missed opportunities to see him.

I later saw KVIA’s video of a friend of mine, Maria Lazo, singing a powerful rendition of “Amor Eterno” in front of the Don Haskins Center that same day. People joined her as they held back tears. I also watched some interviews, and some of the interviewees looked as if they were in their late teens or early 20s, furthering the proof that Juan Gabriel’s music transcended generations.

It’s not difficult to understand the fandom of this prolific singer/composer who wrote over 1,000 songs starting in the ’70s and who topped Billboard Latin Albums charts five times in the past year and a half. But there’s more to the universal adoration for him; El Divo de Juarez was a bonding element for children and their parents, for couples and for friends and family in general.

I liked LA Times’ lead in a story that came out Tuesday: “Nancy Cortes learned two things growing up: Respect your mother. And respect your mother’s love for Juan Gabriel.” I’m sure that sentiment resonates with countless families in El Paso and Juarez!

I realized a similarity between Juanga and two other iconic musicians who died this year, David Bowie and Prince. On top of their originality, timelessness and immense talent to write and compose hits for not only themselves but other famous singers as well, they pushed the envelope when it came to gender identity. All three of them had a wide-ranging and often femme appearance – and tons of fans loved them for it. And the femininity factor didn’t stop a lot of straight men from embracing their music.

Billboard Magazine’s Leilo Cobo said it perfectly on NPR’s Morning Edition:

“Juan Gabriel was very effeminate on stage, yet he was one of these artists, where if you went to a Juan Gabriel concert you would see these macho guys in tears and you would see girls in tears.”

While 2016’s deaths of these men have induced many WTFs and tearful memories of the impact their music made, we can honor them by not only continuing to listen to their songs, but by remembering that we should embrace our uniqueness unapologetically.

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