Ana Gabriel has sustained a nearly 50-year career on the strength of legendary performances that bring audiences to their feet and men and women to tears.
She didn’t disappoint at Billboard’s first Mujeres Latinas en la Música gala, performing a rendition of her hit “Simplemente amigos,” backed by her live touring band, that immediately drew the crowd to their feet and had them singing non-stop.
“Cuanto daría por gritarles nuestro amor; Decirles que al cerrar la puerta nos amamos sin control (What would I give to shout them about our love; Tell them that when the door shuts, we love each other uncontrollably),” sang the crowd along with Ana Gabriel, who is known not only for her distinctive, gorgeous raspy voice, but also for being one of the finest songwriters in Latin music.
It was the most rousing performance of the evening, bringing even Shakira to her feet, and highlighted that at 67 years old, Ana Gabriel — who is headlining a sold-out arena tour — is nowhere near retirement.
Fittingly, earlier in the evening, Ana Gabriel received the Living Legend (Leyenda Viviente) Award, presented to her by Mexican duo Ha*Ash, who called her “nuestra madrina,” or godmother. Ana Gabriel took the compliment to heart.
“My girls, all grown up!” she told the sibling duo, then thanked Billboard and “all those women who continue to fight for music to save lives and spirits.”
“The definition of the word ‘legend’ comes from the Latin, legere,” she added. “It’s being read, seen, known. And with much respect and humility I accept this honor because I’m still seen and listened to by singing. I still leave steps in my wake. And I am who I am because the audience has decided it should be this way.”
The audience, reiterated Ana Gabriel, was the big constant in her career.
“I have many people to thank. But the only one who’s been by my side and has never let me go is called ‘the public.'”