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Armando Manzanero, Influential Mexican Balladeer, Is Dead

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Armando Manzanero, one of Mexico’s greatest romantic composers, whose ballads were performed by the likes of Elvis Presley and Christina Aguilera, died on Monday in Mexico City.

Mr. Manzanero’s family gave his age as 86, though some sources have said that he was 85.

His death was announced on national television by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and by the Society of Authors and Composers of Mexico, of which Mr. Manzanero was president.

“A great composer, among the best of the country,” and “a socially sensitive man,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said.

Mr. Manzanero had been hospitalized with Covid-19 and placed on a ventilator a week before his death, but his son, Diego Manzanero, said the cause was cardiac arrest following complications of kidney problems.

In a seven-decade career, Mr. Manzanero wrote more than 400 songs, including hits like “It’s Impossible” and “Adoro” (“I Adore You”). He received a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2014. He was also a lauded singer and producer.

After touring with several well-known Mexican musical artists early in his career, he recorded his first songs in 1959 and released his first solo album, “A Mi Amor … Con Mi Amor” (“To My Love … With My Love”), in 1967. He went on to release dozens of albums, some of them consisting of duets.

In 1971, Mr. Manzanero received a Grammy nomination for song of the year for “It’s Impossible,” a translation of his 1968 song “Somos Novios,” sung by Perry Como. The song, with a lush melody and syrupy lyrics, has remained popular. Elvis Presley recorded, as did Andrea Bocelli, in a duet with Ms. Aguilera.

Luis Miguel sang several of Mr. Manzanero’s songs for his album “Romances,” released in 1997. A worldwide success, the album was credited with giving new popularity to Latin romance music, which had lost favor to some degree with the rise of Latin pop in the 1980s and ’90s.

Often deceptively simple but imbued with tenderness and passion, Mr. Manzanero’s love songs have resonated for decades across cultures and languages.

“A song has to be written with sincerity,” he told Billboard magazine in 2003. “It can’t be written with the desire to have instant success or passing success.” Rather, he said, it should be written to last.

“It’s like when you do a painting,” he added. “You have to do it right so that the painting remains on the wall forever. That’s been my secret.”

ImageMr. Manzanero, left, in 2014 receiving a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in Los Angeles. With him was Neil Portnow, at the time the chief executive of the Recording Academy, which sponsors the Grammys.
Mr. Manzanero, left, in 2014 receiving a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in Los Angeles. With him was Neil Portnow, at the time the chief executive of the Recording Academy, which sponsors the Grammys.Credit…Michael Buckner/WireImage

Armando Manzanero Canche, who was of Mayan heritage, was born on Dec. 7, 1934, in Merida, in southeastern Mexico, though his birth date was not officially registered until a year later, as Dec. 7, 1935, he said in interviews. (Some records suggest that he was born on Feb. 7, 1935.)

“A year more, a year less, it doesn’t make a difference,” he said in a 2019 interview on Mexico’s Imagen Television.

The eldest of three siblings, he also had two half brothers.

His parents introduced him to music at a young age. His mother, Juana Canche, was a performer of folkloric Yucatan dances; his father, Santiago Manzanero, was a musician — “a magnificent guitarist,” Mr. Manzanero had said.

He studied at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. In 1957, he married Maria Elena Arjona Torres, the first of five wives.

“People who are lucky in life get married just once,” Mr. Manzanero said.

His fourth wife, Olga Aradillas Lara, accused him of domestic abuse, a claim he publicly denied in a news conference in 2005. “I never mistreated her,” he was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Jornada. “I never hit her.”

Despite the accusation and his multiple marriages, in Mexico he was regarded as a hopeless romantic. The actress and singer Susana Zabaleta, who recorded two albums with Mr. Manzanero, said it was his love of love itself that she would remember most.

“The maestro always had a great fascination with being in love,” she said in a phone interview. “He was always in love, he was always a man who believed in love.” She added, “He was a great lover of falling in love again.”

Image

Mr. Manzanero in 2009 with the singer and actress Susana Zabaleta in Mexico City. They had been planning to tour together in 2021.Credit…Juan Villa/Jam Media, via Getty Images

He was also a workhorse. He had recently finished a new album and was halfway through recording another at his death. He and Ms. Zabaleta were planning to go on tour in Mexico and in the United States this year.

“He worked as if he wasn’t famous,” his son, Diego, said in a phone interview. “The 86 years he lived were marvelous, and we enjoyed him — he had so many people that loved him.”

In addition to his son, Mr. Manzanero’s survivors include his wife, Laura Elena Villa; six other children, Armando, Maria Elena, Martha, Mainca, Rodrigo and Juan Pablo; 16 grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; and two sisters.

Ms. Zabaleta said she was still planning to go on tour next year. Mr. Manzanero, she said, would live on “as long as we keep singing his songs.”

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