Legendary mariachi singer Antonio Aguilar, also known as "El Charro de Mexico," died today following a long illness. He was 88.

Aguilar, whose full name was Pascual Antonio Aguilar Barraza, was the most veteran icon of mariachi music and known as much for his powerful voice as for his flair in performance. He popularized "charrería," the spectacle that mixes music with horseback showmanship. As "El Charro de Mexico," Aguilar toured the world with his wife, Flor Silvestre, and his sons, Antonio Jr., and Pepe Aguilar, both reknowned artists in their own right.

"Antonio opened the doors of the United States and Latin America for us," said his longtime friend Vicente Fernandez, who along with Aguilar, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante and Jose Alfredo Jimenez makes up the select group of the most famous interpreters of popular Mexican music.

Antonio Aguilar launched his career in 1950 and eventually recorded more than 150 albums and sold over 25 million copies. Much of his repertoire consisted of "Corridos," the sung stories so popular in Mexican music. Among those he made classic are "Gabino Barrera," "Caballo Prieto Azabache" and "Albur de Amor,"

In 1952, Aguilar made his film debut next to Pedro Infante in the movie "Un Rincón Cerca del Cielo." He would act in 150 films, including "The Defeated," alongside John Wayne.

Aguilar received multiple accolades during his career, including a Star in the Hollwyood Walk of Fame in 2000. Musart/Balboa, Aguilar's longtime label, lamented the loss of "the pillar of our artist roster, and a man of great qualities, as a husband, father and friend."