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José José, Mexican crooner known as the ‘Prince of Song,’ dies at 71

By September 30, 2019Articles, In Memoriam

WP: By Berenice Bautista and Amy Guthrie “He wrung out our hearts with his unmistakable voice and left an indelible mark on music for all time,” Latin music star Gloria Estefan said on Instagram.

Mr. José was born to a family of musicians in Mexico City on Feb. 17, 1948. His mother, Margarita Ortiz Pensado, was a concert pianist, and his father was a tenor in the National Opera of Mexico.

The singer added a second José to his stage name in honor of his father, who died when Mr. José was 17. The father had abandoned the family when Mr. José was young. “Since I inherited his voice,” Mr. José told the Associated Press in 2005, “this is recognition of that inheritance.”

Mr. José began his music career singing in cafes before founding a rock group called the Heart Breakers that launched an unsuccessful album in the mid-1960s. His solo career took off with a single called “La Nave del Olvido,” or “The Ship of the Forgotten,” and peaked in the 1980s with albums such as “Secrets,” his best-selling collaboration with Spanish love song composer and producer Manuel Alejandro.

He struggled with Lyme disease, facial paralysis, substance abuse and depression. His problems with alcohol and drugs led to the 1993 dissolution of his 18-year marriage with model Anel Noreña, with whom he had two children, José Joel and Marisol.

Following the separation, Mr. José began sleeping in a taxi on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. Friends intervened and took him to an addiction treatment center in the United States.

The artist married again in 1995, to Sarita Salazar, a Cuban-American he met while in rehab. They had a daughter, Sara. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. José was nominated on multiple occasions for a Grammy, but he never obtained the prize. The Latin Recording Academy recognized the singer with a Musical Excellence Prize at the 2004 Latin Grammy awards. That same year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

His vocal troubles made it very difficult for him to sing in his later years. For a 2008 concert with Greek composer and pianist Yanni, it took the by-then scratchy-voiced Mexican singer seven days to prepare “just to attempt to sing,” Yanni recalled in a video posted to Twitter. “That was an act of bravery on his part,” he added.

The death of Mr. José hit hard in Mexico, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called him “an extraordinary singer from an era that, with his songs and his romanticism, made a lot of people from my generation cry and be happy.”