Trying to encapsulate the achievements of Alberto Aguilera Valadez, better known as Juan Gabriel, in one article is nothing short of impossible. Luckily, I don’t have to. His music speaks for itself, and it has a lot to say. I mean this literally, since he composed more than 1800 pieces of music in his lifetime.
Here is a man who truly suffered for his art. The son of farmers, Juan’s journey to musical success was a tough one. As a young man in Juarez, he worked as a singer in bars after having a small stint on a television show as a singer. Twice he attempted to pursue recording deals in Mexico but was rejected.
The third time wasn’t a charm…
Unfortunately, his third attempt at becoming a successful musician ended up in him getting falsely accused of robbery and sent to prison.
While there, he would make the acquaintance of a prison warden, who introduced Gabriel to Mexican superstar La Prieta Linda. She helped him get his first release and started him on the road to success.
With more than 60 million copies sold worldwide, Juan Gabriel is easily among the biggest-selling Latin artists of all time. His nineteenth studio album has been ranked as the best-selling album in Mexico.
So, let’s get to my thoughts on the best Juan Gabriel Songs of all time, starting with…
Top 37 Best Juan Gabriel Songs of All Time
Album: Recuerdos II
It’s good that this list doesn’t rank these songs in any particular order. It’s just impossible when you’ve got a catalog of more than 1800 songs. “Querida” is one of the biggest Latin pop songs in history. When thinking of the quintessential song to describe Juan, this would come to mind.
It has a complex arrangement, as many of his tunes do. But, at its heart, “Querida” is a simple thing with a lot of emotion and decoration. Gabriel was a monster arranger and songwriter. And, by the time “Querida” rolled around, he was making it look easier than riding a bike.
This one ranks as one of Juan Gabriel’s greatest romantic ballads and is always quite a hit amongst the female segment of his audience.
Se Me Olvido Otra Vez (I Forgot Again)
Album: Mis Rancheras Querida
Once more, we have a beautifully composed and arranged piece of music. The slow start with a Mariachi feel and an exquisitely recorded Spanish guitar plucking a mournful thread of notes. Gabriel’s voice almost startles you when it comes in.
Later, a violin becomes part of the mix and, of course, a nice bright and passionate brass section. This recording illustrates that particular talent for balancing the brass section just right. It constantly dances on that razor’s edge between being perfect decoration and spilling over into the main elements.
With this song, one gets an appreciation for Gabriel. Not only as a songwriter and performer but as a producer who understood his arrangements very well. As such, it’s one of the most beautiful Juan Gabriel songs ever written.
Yo No Naci Para Amar
Young love is such a beautiful thing. Many might argue that the thing that makes it so poignant is its frailty, the fact that it must, despite its beauty and passion, inevitably come to an end.
Yet, our character in this song laments the fact all his friends had brought an end to their teenage romances, moved on, and found real love. But, somehow, he hasn’t.
There is a wistfulness to the arrangement during the verses. But, it takes on a darker, more somber atmosphere as he grows into the chorus. There’s almost an empty despair to the tone of Gabriels’ voice. And the instrumentation is perfectly produced to fit around his vocal like a glove.
Amor Eterno (Rocío Dúrcal)
Album: Amor Eterno
This song has been chosen because, like many of his other songs, it ended up getting taken up by another artist and pushed to the stratosphere of chart success. Therefore, it serves as a fantastic testament to Gabriel’s incredible songwriting ability. And, may I remind you, he was quite a prolific composer with more than 1800 pieces to his name.
This one’s beautiful ranchera-style melody just makes it a smash hit. All it needed was the production and the right voice, and this is surely found in Rocío Dúrcal.
Ya No Vivo Por Vivir (I No Longer Live For Living feat. Natalia Lafourcade)
Album: Los Dúo
Los Dúo featured collaborations with a myriad of incredibly talented artists. Many of the songs on that album could easily have been placed on this list of the best Juan Gabriel songs of all time. I just happened to get hooked by this one.
First, all the music on Los Dúo is well-written and produced like all of Juan Gabriel’s projects. Second, here we have example after example of Juan’s abundance in a skill that is vital to all artists – the ability to work with others.
The track has a beautifully simple piano arrangement with crisp-sounding production. When the two voices come in, you are taken to that wonderful place called feel good. Greater than the sum of its parts and one of the prettiest Latin duets I’ve heard in years.
Por Que Me Haces Llorar?
Album: Juan Gabriel
Seeking some closure? Looking to hit up your ex with something to bring an end to the funny stares and unsure text messages?
Oh yes, we’ve all been there, and Gabriel knew that many more would be there long after he was gone. That is why he wrote songs like this. Universal in its theme, although most people won’t attest to being so emotional.
This one has that perfect nostalgic tempo and rhythm with a beautiful mariachi-style melody driving it along. You can look up a live performance of this song and see Gabriel swaying side to side with a glass of good wine as he sings this number. And why wouldn’t he, right?
Hasta Que Te Conoci
Here we have a song that gave listeners a rare glimpse into the life of the singer. If you read the recently released novella about Gabriel, you will find a special section about this song there.
Despite having such tremendous success and fame, the artist was not exempt from feeling loneliness and pain, as all human beings must. It is easy to elevate stars such as him to inhuman heights. But, we must remind ourselves that they are all like us, only human.
This song was one of Juan Gabriel’s biggest hits, reaching #2 on the Hot Latin Songs chart.
El Noa Noa (The Noa Noa)
There are many interpretations of the word “Noa.” But, most would say that the likely inspiration for this song was a painting by Paul Gaugin, which bore the same name. The subject matter of both pieces seems to be enjoying the good things in life, like the company of beautiful women and dancing.
That being said, it is well known that Juan Gabriel made his living as a singer in clubs in Juarez, where he lived for many years. One of the clubs frequented by the singer was named El Noa Noa, so the meaning for me is double.
Showing a lighter side…
Many songs prove Juan Gabriel wasn’t just a sad old wailer whose only successful numbers were sad ballads about flames that have passed on. But, none illustrates his jovial side better than El Noa Noa.
It is one of Gabriel’s first big hits and remained a favorite of his fans throughout his long career. All told, it is one of the most popular Juan Gabriel songs.
Album: Canta A Juan Gabriel
One of Juan Gabriel’s most fruitful and creative partnerships was with the talented Spanish singer Rocío Dúrcal. If one were to take only the collaborations they had, there would still be enough hits to crown a lifetime’s worth of achievement.
This diamond of a duet is probably one of the greatest Juan Gabriel duets ever recorded. It showcases Gabriel’s incredible ear for good music and skillful production.
No doubt, the mixing of traditional Ranchera elements with more modern pop sensibilities was a bit far out. But, it became a staple of popular Latin music soon after. Truly, he was a man ahead of his time.
Te Lo Pido Por Favor
Album: Mis Canciones, Mis Amigos
Another of the best Juan Gabriel songs of all time. There were many nicknames for Juan Gabriel throughout his life. One of the most enduring of Juan Gabriel’s titles is “El Divo de Juarez,” and this song serves to illustrate why he deserved that title.
Built around beautiful mariachi arrangements, this song is another great example of Juan’s immense production and arranging talent, as well as his ear for what could be a hit.
He knew that the blending of sound, both old and new, was the key to keeping the music moving forward. And, if there’s one direction he never went, it was backward. This one was romantic but modern. That’s why it was a hit even with younger audiences who’d never heard of him.
Abrázame Muy Fuerte
Album: Abrázame Muy Fuerte
Nothing groundbreaking or new about this one. It just serves to illustrate Juan Gabriel’s incredible ability as a lyricist. This one doesn’t have much else going on, although production was spot on as always. It’s the simple, powerful images he paints using nothing but simple words.
When you miss someone, nothing can fill that void except that person’s return. You can try and distract yourself with other things, but in the end, all you want is for them to return. It’s that simple.
The beautiful lyrics in this song would have been just as powerful in a hundred other arrangements. The power of this one is all in the words, and that makes it one of Juan Gabriel’s most well known songs ever.
Así Fue (En Vivo [Desde el Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes])
Album: Lo Mejor en Bellas Artes – 40 Aniversario
Having to admit to someone that you’ve moved on is never easy. The emotions that course through one’s heart when doing so are so complex that even given five years and as many words, you wouldn’t be able to adequately describe how you feel.
Somehow, Juan Gabriel was able to take very complex and abstract ideas and give them a form as solid and simple as a circle. This song speaks to so many subtleties of human nature that it’s hard to imagine he didn’t spend years and years writing these words, yet he cranked these out by the week.
This one has been ranked by many as one of the most heartbreaking songs ever written. It had a great revival after its release when Spanish singer, Isabel Pantoja, covered it in 1988.
No Tengo Dinero (I Have No Money)
Album: Mis Número 1… 40 Aniversario
The theme of love is prevalent in almost all of Juan Gabriel’s compositions and why not. If you’re going to compose something beautiful, it might as well be about something beautiful.
Few things in life are as beautiful as the power of love. Love can transcend all borders no matter how seemingly unbridgeable they may be. Here, we have the theme of love being able to transcend financial difficulties.
A man is finally convinced that no matter what the consequences, love will ensure that his lady remains by his side as long as he remains loyal. This one is one of the biggest hits at live shows, and seeing the crowd’s reaction just helps to prove the point the song is trying to make.
Te Sigo Amando
Amor del Alma
Siempre en Mi Mente
Lo Pasado, Pasado
Buenos Días Señor Sol
El Noa Noa (En Vivo)
Inocente Pobre Amigo
Lágrimas y Lluvia
El Mejor de los Días
La Muerte del Palomo
Siempre Estoy Pensando en Ti
Vienes o Voy
De Sol a Sol
Want To Find More Great Songs?
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Best Juan Gabriel Songs of All Time – Conclusion
Throughout his long career and incredible life, Juan Gabriel never put the breaks on when it came to creativity. Ever since he started composing as a teen, he went all out. He experimented, he collaborated, and he spread the joy of his art and himself as a performer wherever he went.
He returned the adoration of his millions of fans with the same tender appreciation he had when he started. And that is why even after his passing, he lives on as a Latin legend, a beloved hero of Juarez, his hometown, and of all of Latin America.
So, until next time, happy listening.