Letter to Juan Gabriel by Natalia Lafourcade
At this moment my body has chills and my mind is trying to grasp the sad news that has left us breathless. A great friend is gone from the world which we live, surely in this moment he looking down at us from the place we will all meet sooner or later.
I am so grateful that life, time and destiny gave me the opportunity to spend some days very close to the great master and artist Juan Gabriel, and I also appreciate so much having held the hand of don Alberto Aguilera [one in the same], a wonderful human being, full of humility, a man of light, sensitivity, generosity, love, honesty, to mention only a few of his many virtues. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to look into his eyes, feel the spirit so beautiful and strong that was living in his body, hold his hands after he took mine. I appreciate so much that I could sing for him and let his voice run together with mine. I still can’t write very well because it’s hard for me to understand how neither Juan Gabriel, nor don Alberto, will be with us here anymore.
And all that he has left us… so many years of giving everything he had. So many years of writing such beautiful, special songs for us that accompanied thousands of us so much of the time, in happy and in difficult moments, in melancholy times, while dancing, and in celebrating life itself. This news fills me with sadness like everyone, we will miss this great human being – but at the same time I feel that there is no way that Juan Gabriel is gone because he lives every day, every second in the lives of millions of people that hold him in their hearts and memories and unforgettable moments. His music has filled our lives with color, happiness and meaning and I also think about everything he took from all of us. People often ask me how it was to work with Juan Gabriel. What I most remember now are the ordinary moments. It’s strange that the day I went into his house I didn’t feel so nervous, the sensation was similar to how I felt as a child entering the house of my great aunts that I liked so much, that place where they cooked Mexican recipes, where you chatted agreeably on the patio, where you ate Mexican eggs with chilaquiles.
I saw him come in through the door, with his light blue pajamas on: there was a musical legend welcoming me into his home, opening his arms and his heart. He hugged me and in that instant I knew that things would go well that visit. I was full of confusion, I didn’t understand why he wanted me to sing his song, or which one I’d sing, or what the dynamic would be of our meeting. He took my hand and said “come.” His hand was warm and he made me feel like a girl and so we went to a hallway and afterward entered in one room, another room, another room, every place was beautiful and unique like him, every corner had a color that surely he had chosen personally, an adornment or that detail that made it a singular place. Like that elephant two meters tall that had come from India. I remember the furniture, the traditional costumes of his dolls, I remember seeing Mexico in every corner of that house and the tradition and daily life with the flavor of Mexico.
That day began at 6:30 in the evening. And ended at 5:00 in the morning. That was when I understood that with him it was a night thing. We spent hours in the studio. He made me sing 3 songs in total. I sang an unedited song of which I can’t remember the name but I do remember I didn’t have the least idea of how to interpret it, it was then I felt nervous and then I realized that the microphones magically captured whatever fear, insecurity, or uncertainty that one has singing a song. I felt that he knew perfectly everything that was going on with me, not only in that moment but also in my life. He gave me the most difficult song to sing first and everything was shaping up to be a disaster. First take, I tried with my mental ghosts and everything, second take, and he stopped the song. He knew that I wasn’t singing with my soul, he knew that I wasn’t using my heart to interpret this piece. He took me to the side, asked me to sit and after he told me: Natalia, I am going to ask that you listen to yourself. When you are inside, you aren’t able to go out and listen and look at yourself from outside, you keep making the same mistakes without being able to change them. Learn to listen to yourself from outside and that’s how you will know what you have to change. Observe yourself and that’s how you will know what adjustments to make to go forward. Imagine the lesson in this. So then, I listened to the worst take of an interpretation of one of his songs that I can remember, but there was something inside of me that let me know that I had come all the way to this room where he was, it was for a reason and also it was because I had what was needed to be able to sing his song. I decided to enter again to the booth and simply sing for him with love and humility.
I did another take that was better than the first and he entered the booth, put on the earphones and took my hands. That was how I sang that first song that he gave me and was one of the most beautiful and magical moments that I spent with him. Imagine that his body and his energy, through his hands holding mine, told me how he wanted me to sing this song. Everything disappeared at that moment and we went flying. After came more songs and in each one of them, he was there inside the booth, caring for me and accompanying me. That was the instant that I learned how to connect my heart and soul to sing a song. A little after came the moment to sing “Ya no vivo por vivir” and that I could sing that song was thanks to his guidance.
When it was very late already we went to have dinner and I was surprised to see that they had prepared for him some delicious eggs and chilaquiles with baked beans. Made with love by his cooks. From outside one could imagine whatever, but no, inside this house there was a beautiful day-to-day life that’s present in homes in Mexico that I so love, and that familiar warmth was what I so needed at that moment in my life. Alberto and I talked for hours. He asked me questions, I was full of doubts and working on the album Mujer Divina without knowing if it would work or not. I showed it to him soon before sending it to be mixed. Now I remember why I didn’t invite him to sing on the record and how I regretted it, the reason was that a part of me felt that that was too much to ask and after being in his house sharing something so special and important that, by the way, he made me play it from beginning to end listening with all his attention to each song. He gave me so much good advice, he gave it to me straight, opening up like family, someone that you love and have known all your life. My eyes were closing on their own. I couldn’t go on from being so sleepy, but he had so much energy. I had to excuse myself – See you tomorrow? He hugged me and gave me a kiss on the head and took me to my room. The sea accompanied our conversations and the house became emptier and quieter as the hours went by. When I was in bed I was so grateful for being there and being able to have that experience.
I have many moments to tell but not about me. They deal with the pain that now we carry and feel. Juan Gabriel is playing everywhere now, we all feel the same sadness. I wonder if yesterday while he was preparing for the powerful moment and ritual of the stage, if he knew what was waiting on the other side. I wonder if he knew because the little time I was chosen to spend with him, I could perceive immensity of his wisdom and sensitivity. He knew perfectly how much we loved him, he knew perfectly how important that he was and is in everybody’s life and because of this he kept working and giving so much with those marvelous plans that he had in his hands for everybody, because his love is infinite and eternal.
I so appreciate all that I learned visiting his house. I am so grateful for his honest and direct words that happened while I shared my music, I appreciate his humility and that he always made me feel like family. I am sorry that tonight Juan Gabriel is no longer physically with us. I think that if I could choose where and when I die, I would love to die singing like him. Up to the last moment Juan Gabriel gave life and happiness to all those who were with him in each one of his concerts. Now we can keep his music alive by continuing to sing it and teach it to our children and the children of our children. And so it goes. A musical legend of Mexico. A man that made history and formed part of our history. We have so much to thank him for.
Thank you Juan Gabriel. We love you, wherever you are, we are always with you. On the altar of our house we will have a candle lit in front of our photo and that beautiful gift that you gave me when I visited you for the first time. In my concerts I will continue to sing “Ya no vivo por vivir.” This song has become a hymn of life for me, that I will always remember to live intensely and not have fear of the uncomfortable places and the unknown, that by the way, you recommended that I never stop visiting.
I adore you great friend, I adore you great master, and I will always remember you with love. Rest in peace.