Johnny Ventura, Dominican Merengue Icon, Dies at 81

Johnny Ventura
Gladys Vega/ Getty Images

Johnny Ventura performs during his concert "Los 60 del Caballo" at Coliseo Jose M. Agrelot on November 10, 2019 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Legendary merengue singer Johnny Ventura (real name: Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano) died on Wednesday (July 28), Billboard has learned. He was 81 years old.

The famed singer-songwriter, arranger and bandleader died of a sudden heart attack and was pronounced dead at Clínica Unión Medica del Norte in Santiago, according to El Tiempo.

Just three hours before his death was announced, Ventura shared a video of himself dancing with one of his fans and wrote: “I miss the human warmth of my audience. Let’s continue to protect ourselves to return to normality soon.”

Born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, Ventura kicked off his career in the early ‘60s and was coined as "El Caballo Mayor." Some of his biggest titles include tropical hits such as “Patacon Pisao,” “¿Pitaste?” and “Merenguero Hasta la Tambora,” all of which have become staples in Latin households.

Ventura’s timeless music has entered various Billboard charts, including Hot Latin Songs, Top Latin Albums, Tropical Airplay and Tropical Albums. From 1994 to 1998, Ventura also served as vice mayor of Santo Domingo and as mayor from 1998 to 2002.

On social media, artists such as Olga Tañon and Manny Cruz, among others, reacted to his death.

“My admiration for you always,” Tañon wrote on Instagram. “You always treated me with so much affection and respect! I made my dream of recording with you a reality! You are a great defender of merengue music for the whole world!”