“King of Bolero” Lucho Gatica dies at 90 years

SANTIAGO –Lucho Gatica, known as the “king of bolero”, has died in his residence in Mexico. Of all Chilean musicians, Gatica is seen as the artist with the most global fame. Thanks to his impressive career, Gatica received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, among many other awards.

President Piñera called for a day of national mourning on Thursday, La Tercera wrote about “the biggest personality in Chilean pop music” while the city of Rancagua had some months ago presented a statue of Gatica, a born Rancaguan himself.

It shows the massive impact Gatica had on Chilean music. But outside Chile’s borders, Gatica’s influence in the popular bolero music, among other genres, was legendary. In Latin-American countries such as Mexico, Gatica was maybe even more popular than in Chile. To say it simple, Gatica was bigger than Chile.

A boy from Rancagua

Gatica was born on August 11, 1928 into a music-loving family. Along with his brother, he tried already at a young age to launch a career in the music industry. At 14, the brothers sang a duet on Rancagua radio and at 21, they released their first album.

After moving to Santiago, the Gatica brothers tried to get more professional in the bolero genre, which around that time was heading into its golden years (the 1950s). As Lucho proved to be the more talented singer, his brother Arturo disappeared from the stage, most of the time assisting as background singer or as designer of the covers of Gatica’s albums.

In the early 1950s, Gatica landed his first hit with “Me importas tú”, which made him famous across the continent. He followed with classics such as “Amor, qué malo eres” and “Contigo en la Distancia”, songs that got him an overseas tour to Spain and the United Kingdom.

Move to Mexico

The biggest step in the impressive career of Lucho Gatica was undoubtedly his move to Mexico in 1955. Mexico was and still is one of the most important countries in Latin-America when it comes to Latin pop music, and Gatica´s move to the North-American country proved to be both a personal and a commercial success.

Gatica lived in Mexico for over 20 years before moving to the United States. In Mexico, he recorded over 50 songs, released classics such as “No me Platiques Más”, “Tú me Acostumbraste” and “Voy a Apagar la Luz”. He got married there and had two sons, who both had careers in the entertainment industry. But Gatica’s biggest triumph was the fact that he was the driving force behind the global success of the bolero genre.

International fame in the US

After Mexico, the step to the United States was a logical one, considering the influence Gatica had on the music industry. In the US, Gatica recorded three albums in 14 months with the legendary Capitol Records, with songs such as “Somos” , “Sabrá Dios” and “Si me Comprendieras”.

Gatica would later move back to Mexico, where he died on November 13, at 18.00h in his residence.

A success story outside Chile

Although he was a global star who received a Grammy for his music career and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Gatica never got the same status in Chile as stars like Violeta Parra and Vicente Bianchi. As he left Chile during young age, lived most of his life in Mexico and was married first to a Puerto Rican woman and later a US-American one, Gatica was especially a success story outside Chile.

He did get awarded with national prizes such as the “Orden al Mérito Gabriela Mistral”, but Gatica will be remembered in the country as the lost son, who died a faraway hero.

Read also:

Vicente Bianchi – the man that breathed music

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