Joan Sebastian would have turned 69 Wednesday (April 8). The Mexican singer and writer of achingly beautiful songs — who landed 42 Hot Latin Songs hits — died July 12, 2015, at his ranch in Juliantla, Mexico, after a 13-year battle with bone cancer. He was 64 years old.
“I don’t make up songs –I live songs,” Sebastian once told Billboard.
With a story that reads like the movies and soap operas he once starred in, Sebastian had much living to draw from. He had eight children from five women, survived the death of two of them, and was diagnosed with bone cancer, a disease he battled with grit and by never leaving the stage.
In celebration of his birthday, fellow Mexican star Alejandro Fernandez, who counted Sebastian as a mentor, has released a cover version of “Esto y más.”
It inspired us to look back at Sebastian’s top 5 hits on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart.
Joan Sebastian’s first entry on the top 10 dates back to 1986 with “Oiga,” a pop ballad performed with singer/songwriter Prisma (real name Silvia Tapia Alcázar) that peaked at No. 4 and spent 26 weeks on the chart. Just a few years later, Prisma, a star in Mexico in the ’70s and ’80s, would leave showbiz for good. Sebastian stayed.
“Secreto de Amor”
It took 14 years for Sebastian to hit the top 10 again, this time with what would become his biggest hit. “Secreto de Amor” (Love Secret), a song about an illicit lover (“I’m going to change your name, so we can keep our secret,” says the opening line) has become a Latin music standard, covered by singers around the world. The song peaked at No. 3 in 2000 and spent 33 weeks on the chart. This is not “Secreto’s” official video, but it shows Joan Sebastian performing in his most authentic manner: singing live, on a horse, during one of his fabled jaripeos (horse and music shows) in Mexico.
The track, about a fool who lets the girl go, originally charted in 2001, and returned in a new version in 2015.
“Manantial de Llanto”
The ranchero/pop track, from the album Lo Dijo El Corazón, hit the top 10 in early 2002. It spent 26 weeks on the chart.
“Más Allá del Sol”
From the album of the same name, “Más Allá” showcased a Joan Sebastian in his prime, this time singing banda. “Más allá” spent 35 weeks on the chart, more than any of Sebastian’s other top 10s, and the album won regional Mexican album of the year at the 2007 Billboard Latin Music Awards, where Sebastian also received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bonus Track: “Eso y Más”
Not a lead a single, the pared down “Eso y más,” recorded with only a guitar accompaniment, nevertheless became a major hit that peaked at No. 6 on the chart and spent 26 weeks on the tally. This is Alejandró Fernández’s new cover version, released April 8.