MEXICO CITY, Mexico — José José, a Mexican music icon, has died, the Mexican Ministry of Culture said.
He was 71.
“From the Ministry of Culture we are sorry for the passing of singer José Rómulo Sosa, better known as José José of the prince of the song. Since the beginning of his career, the singer of El Triste became one of most beloved voices in Mexico. Rest in Peace,” the ministry tweeted Saturday.
The Spanish-language singer, songwriter and actor — whose birth name is José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz– had been battling pancreatic cancer and had been hospitalized multiple times in recent years.
He’s survived by his wife Sara Salazar and his children, Sarita Sosa, José Joel and Marisol.
The singer, called by fans and colleagues “El Príncipe de la canción” (Prince of Song), had tweeted in June that he was undergoing therapy and thanked his fans for their support.
He was known for romantic ballads like “La Nave del Olvido,” “40 y 20,” “Gavilán o Paloma” and “El Triste,” and many more songs that became hits throughout his career of more than half a century.
Born in Mexico City, José José had been destined to enter the music industry. He grew up surrounded by music, as his father was a tenor for the Mexico National Opera and his mother was professional pianist.
He started his career singing jazz and bossa nova but jumped to fame in 1970 when he sang “El Triste” at the Festival de la Canción Latina. He didn’t win the prestigious singing contest but his performance was so memorable that fans across Latin America considered him the actual winner.
Over the next half century, José José sang about love and heartbreak as he became an idol in his native Mexico.
José José was nominated six times for a Grammy Award in the Best Latin Pop Performance category, and honored by the Latin Recording Academy with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and as Person of the Year in 2005.
He struggled with substance abuse for decades and then faced Lyme disease, facial paralysis and other illnesses that led him to eventually lose his voice.
The singer announced he had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and assured fans through a Twitter message that he was recovering at home. Last year, rumors on his fragile health spread when he was hospitalized in Miami, just months after Telemundo network aired a biopic series based on his life.