Late Mexican Icon Joan Sebastian Celebrates Life at Home in New Single 'Volví P'al Pueblo': Listen
Joan Sebastian’s life may have been cut short, but his music endures. The late superstar’s posthumous new single, “Volví Pa’l Pueblo” (Back to my Hometown), released July 22, celebrates life and cements his legacy as one of Latin music’s most beloved singer/songwriters.
Sebastian was hailed as a supreme showman for his dazzling spectacles of horseback riding and music, a Mexican tradition known as jaripeo, and was equally revered for writing achingly beautiful love songs. He died July 13 in his ranch in Juliantla, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, at age 64, after a long battle with cancer.
He was honored with four days of services, including a wake that was held at his Cruz de la Sierra ranch on July 14 and kept open to the public, a high-profile ceremony in Mexico City organized by SACM (Mexican Society of Songwriters & Composers) on July 16, and a mass and funeral on July 17 in his native Juliantla, where he is now buried at the local cemetery, next to his son, Trigo Figueroa.
Resting in his birthplace was Sebastian’s final wish, and his love for Juliantla is artfully expressed on his new, accordion-laced track. In the song, Sebastian remembers all the things that he loved about life at home, such as “my grandmother’s cooking, my grandfather on his horse, the rain showers in May, my sweetheart and the kisses we gave each other with passion.” He also laments the passing of his mother and father. “I don’t cry because I’m a coward, I cry for those who are no longer here,” he sings.
The death of the beloved, Grammy-winning musician has sparked a surge of chart climbs across all formats, according to the latest chart data. On Top Latin Albums alone, Sebastian holds five spots, including the top three -- a feat no male artist has ever previously achieved.
Before his death, Sebastian had been in and out of hospitals for several months, and was working on new music for Sony Music Latin, which confirmed via a July 22 statement that the posthumous album will indeed be released (though the release date is still to be determined). Sebastian’s 40-year-old son, singer José Manuel Figueroa, said of the new single: "With the help of Sony Music we want to celebrate his life, his achievements...and may his songs endure through his last cavalcade, which will have no end."
On his Twitter page, Figueroa also shared a moving photo of a loyal fan sleeping next to his father’s burial ground in Juliantla. “One of the most beautiful displays of love for my father, the immortal Joan Sebastian,” he captioned.
Beautiful as the services in honor of Sebastian were, featuring celebratory mariachis and banda in a tribute fit for a musical giant, they were not free of controversy. Singers Yuri, Ana Barbara, Maribel Guardia (Sebastian’s ex-wife), and Lucia Mendez caused controversy when they took some group photos after the Mexico City ceremony on July 16, angering Sebastian’s fans, who then took to social media to criticize them for “appearing to be on a red carpet and not at a funeral.”
Mendez responded swiftly to the criticism, telling a group of reporters in Mexico, “We were all there to remember Joan because we have all worked with him in one way or another, we all had some sort of relationship with him. Two to three hours later, we went to a downstairs area, next to the parking lot. And we were just happy to see each other, independently of the shock of losing Joan. I hadn’t talked to these women in years, so we took a photo and we smiled, because that’s what you do when you take a picture, not because we were being disrespectful to anybody. And the casket was not next to us as some press people have insinuated. I don’t think Joan would have been upset if we took a photo together, smiling.”