MIAMI -- Family, friends and music colleagues of the late José José bid farewell to the Mexican crooner Friday at a Miami-area funeral home, remembering him not only as one of Latin America's greatest singers but as a humble man.
Beloved for his melancholy ballads and known as Mexico's "Prince of Song," José José died last Saturday in Miami at age 71 after living in South Florida in recent years.
Puerto Rican bandleader and singer Gilberto Santa Rosa — the "Gentleman of Salsa" — said he was a fan of José José's music and fond of him as a man.
"He was a lovely man, a person who never changed despite becoming a superstar," Santa Rosa said as he arrived to the invitation-only wake in suburban Miami, which was scheduled to last seven hours into Friday evening
Arturo Lavalle, a friend of José José for three decades, said the singer's coffin was gold-plated, lined with blue velvet and surrounded by white flowers in the shape of a heart, with flags of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States and a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The singer wore a suit, shirt and tie of blue — his favorite color, Lavalle said.
The president of the Sony label in Mexico, Roberto Lopez said people should follow José José's example of love. Lopez said whenever the singer visited the company's offices, he would greet every employee one by one.
"His music is the legacy that will remain forever," Lopez said.
Outside in a parking lot, fans gathered, embraced and sang the late singer's songs and shouted "Long live José!"
"He was my idol, a super simple, extraordinary person," said Silvia Romero, a 46-year-old Mexican who came with three friends hoping to be allowed into the wake. "His songs bring me many memories. We always sing them when we are sad. "
Born as José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz, the Mexican singer had been living in South Florida with his third wife and youngest daughter. Two children from a previous marriage had traveled to Miami hoping for input on his funeral arrangements, and the family members met Tuesday at the Mexican consulate where they agreed to hold ceremonies in Miami before flying the body to Mexico for additional ceremonies.
Gisela Salomon is on Twitter as https://twitter.com/giselasalomon