Alberto Cortez, the Argentine singer, composer and lyricist whose best-known songs included "Cuando un amigo se va," departed this life himself when he died Thursday in a Madrid hospital at the age of 79.
A hospital communiqué reporting his death named him as José Alberto García Gallo, which was actually the name on his birth certificate (issued on March 11, 1940). The singer had been rushed to hospital the previous week with heart failure.
Although his career goes back over 50 years, it perhaps peaked in 2007 when he won the Grammy for Musical Excellence together with other famous Latin American artists.
Spain’s Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE) immediately organised a wake where friends and admirers could pay tribute to the "singer of simple things."
Cortez came from humble origins in Rancul, northern La Pampa – a tiny town whose slowly shrinking population numbers just over 3,000. But he was musically precocious from early on, being sent to a conservatory when six years old and composing as from the age of 12.
He was soon established as a singer with tango and other orchestras here but his career never really took off until he left his native country, touring Europe in 1960 with the Argentine International Ballet and Show and cutting his first record in Belgium where he met and wed Renée Govaerts. In the year of their marriage, 1964, the couple moved to Madrid where Cortez was based ever since.
A prolific career saw him release almost 50 albums, which earned him four gold discs. He further published four volumes of verse and acted in two films.
The trademark of his singing was a deep and melodious voice with lyrics drawn from everyday life.
Cortez worked with various famous performers such as Estela Raval, Joan Manuel Serrat and Ricardo Arjona but his closest partnership and friendship was with Facundo Cabral – the singer who died in strange circumstances in Guatemala in 2011 when he was gunned down while on his way to the airport by hitmen who apparently mistook him for the head of a rival drug-trafficking ring. Cortez and Cabral made four records together and teamed up for an extensive international tour entitled "Lo Cortez no quita lo Cabral."
Although he could no longer play his guitar after a stroke in 1996, Cortez kept giving concerts until the very end with a Caribbean tour lined up at the time of his death.