Joan Sebastian, Mexican Ballad Singer With Chicago Ties, Dies at 64

Sebastian lived in the Pilsen neighborhood in the early years of his career

Joan Sebastian, one of Mexico's great ballad singers, died Monday at age 64.

A representative of Universal Music Latin Entertainment-Fonovisa confirmed his death but did not specify the cause. Sebastian had battled cancer for years.

Sebastian lived in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago in the early years of his career. After he arrived in the 1970's, he worked as a waiter to save money to record his first album, according to residents who knew him. The singer also sold cars in Chicago to pay his bills, Billboard reports.

The Pilsen community will honor Sebastian with a vigil Tuesday at 7 p.m. near the mural depicting Sebastian, located at 18th and Wood Streets.

The singer was best known for sentimental love songs like "Tatuajes" and "Secreto de Amor," sometimes set to simple guitar arrangements and sometimes sung on horseback.

Sebastian won five Grammy awards and seven Latin Grammy prizes during his career.

He reached nearly the same level of adoration as Vicente Fernandez, the king of Mexico's "ranchero" country-ballad music who outlived him.

Born Jose Manuel Figueroa, Sebastian had eight children with five women. Two of his sons were killed in separate incidents in 2006 and 2010, triggering speculation the singer might have been involved in the drug underworld. He strenuously denied that claim.

Burial plans were not immediately announced.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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