Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati has died, four years after a stroke put him in a coma and ended the career of one of Latin America’s most influential musicians.
The 55-year old was the former lead singer of the Argentine rock band Soda Stereo, who were among the most popular groups in the Spanish-speaking world in the 1980s and 1990s.
“He is eternal. He is by far the best musician to come out of Argentina in the past 50 years,” Charly Alberti, the drummer for Soda Stereo, told Todo Noticias news channel.
President Cristina Fernandez tweeted that Cerati, along with late Argentine rocker Luis Alberto Spinetta, were “popular idols for generations of Argentines”.
Cerati was born on August 11, 1959, in Buenos Aires and formed his first band before the age of 10.
Many of the melodies recorded during his childhood became the inspiration for songs later played by Soda Stereo.
Cerati met band members Alberti and Hector “Zeta” Bosio during their college years when they began swapping records of artists such as The Police, XTC and Elvis Costello.
They formed Soda, as the band was known to fans, in 1982, just as Argentina was emerging from a long and brutal military dictatorship. Their first album, a fresh sound with heavy influences of new wave and punk, was released in 1984.
Soda Stereo broke up in 1997, but Cerati continued a successful solo career until he suffered a stroke following a 2010 performance in Venezuela.
Cerati died from a respiratory arrest at the ALCLA hospital in Buenos Aires, director Gustavo Barbalace said.
He thanked the singer’s mother Lilian for remaining by her son’s side for four years and never losing faith that one day he would return to life.
“(Gustavo’s) mom is an example of a constant struggle,” an emotional Barbalace told reporters outside the hospital. “I wish there were more Lilians in this world.”
Cerati won several accolades, including several Latin Grammys and MTV music awards.
Thousands of people gathered at the Buenos Aires parliament to pay homage to Cerati. Some fans sang his songs, others brought flowers, while most waited in silence in a queue that stretched for 15 city blocks to pay their respects.
“How am I going to say goodbye to him, since he was such a part of my life?” wondered 44-year-old Susana Prieto, who carried a bouquet of flowers.
“He formed a part of my adolescence, my first loves, my adulthood.”
Gustavo Cerati, one of Latin America’s most celebrated musicians, considered Argentina’s most legendary rock star, died on Thursday from respiratory problems, his family said in a message on his official Facebook page. He was 55.
Cerati had been in a coma since 2010, after suffering from a stroke following a solo concert in Caracas, Venezuela.
While in a coma, Cerati was named a “Distinguished Citizen” by the city of Buenos Aires, his birthplace. Numerous highly-respected musicians, including Argentina’s Fito Paez, Uruguayan Jorge Drexler and many other musicians paid tribute to Cerati during this time.
Cerati fronted Soda Stereo, a band whose songs about seduction, inner turmoil and disillusionment defined a generation of youth not only in Argentina, but up through South America, well into Mexico and across the Atlantic into Spain. In 1987, five years after forming and giving their first show at a Buenos Aires discotheque, the band was chosen as the guest of honor at the Vina del Mar Festival where, according to their official site, there were 120 cases of collective hysteria.
“It’s impossible to explain the renaissance of the Argentine rock movement in the early ‘80s without mentioning the return of democracy after seven years of military government in 1983,” says the Billboard page on Soda Stereo. Though they didn’t sing about political issues, “of all the bands that emerged from that post-dictatorial rule government, Soda Stereo were by far the most popular and enduring.”
The band closed the “Three Days for Democracy” Festival in Buenos Aires in 1988, drawing 150,000 people to the 9 de Julio Avenue, in the heart of the capital city. Soda Stereo was influenced by bands like The Police, Television and Talking Heads. Its style evolved over time, encompassing elements of ska, reggae, soul and electronica. By 1989, they had gone on five continental tours.
The following year, they released their emblematic song, De Musica Ligera, which became the de facto anthem for legions of Latin America youth who grew up in the 90s.