Pablo Milanés, the famed Cuban singer-songwriter widely known as Pablito, died in Madrid on Monday. He was 79.
The founder of the Cuban nueva trova (the new song movement), Milanes toured the world as a cultural ambassador for Fidel Castro’s revolution. The Latin Grammy-winning singer recorded dozens of albums and was beloved for his international hits including “Yo Me Quedo” (I’m Staying) and “Amo Esta Isla” (I Love This Island).
His death was confirmed on his official Facebook. “With great pain and sadness, we regret to report that Maestro Pablo Milanés has passed away,” representatives for Milanés wrote (originally in Spanish, translated here in English). “We deeply appreciate all the shows of love and support, to all his family and friends, in this very difficult time. May he rest in the love and peace he always transcended. He will remain forever in our memory.”
Earlier in November, the singer was hospitalized and canceled several concerts. He was under treatment for blood cancer, AP reports.
“The culture in Cuba is in mourning for the death of Pablo Milanes,” Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz tweeted Monday night.
Milanes was born in the eastern city of Bayamo on Feb. 24, 1943. He was the youngest of five siblings and his musical career began with him singing for local TV and radio contests. Although he studied at the Havana Musical Conservatory when his family moved to the capital in the 1950s, he credited his neighborhood musicians for his source of inspiration early in his career.
In 1970 he wrote, “Yolanda,” a love song that remains an enduring favorite in Latin America.
He was awarded numerous Cuban honors including the Alejo Carpentier medal in 1982 and the 2007 Haydee Santamaria medal from the Casa de las Americas for his contributions to Latin American culture.
In 2006, Milanes won two Latin Grammys for best singer-songwriter album for “Como un Campo de Maiz” (Like a Cornfield) and best traditional tropical album for “AM/PM, Lineas Paralelas” (AM/PM, Parallel lines), a collaboration with Andy Montanez.