The cumbia music world is mourning the loss of an icon. Mexican saxophonist Fito Olivares, known for his hit “Juana La Cubana,” passed away today (Mar. 17), his family confirmed.
Born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, he was known as El Rey de la Cumbia. Throughout his career, he released classic songs like “Agüita de Melon,” “La Gallina,” and “El Chicle,” which are staples at Latine family functions. In Houston, TX, the musician formed the band Fito Olivares y su Grupo La Pura Sabrosura alongside his brothers Javier and Jaime in 1980. He also performed in the group Duet Estrella.
Olivares retired from performing in 2007. According to his wife, he was battling myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. She confirmed the news of her husband’s passing at age 75 to Raúl Brindis’ YouTube channel.
“He was diagnosed about eight months ago, but we didn’t know how serious it was going to be,” Olivares’ wife said. “The doctors gave him a while [to live]. They told him he had so many months [left] and thank God, he lasted a little longer than what the doctors told us. His cancer was already very advanced. It is a cancer called multiple myeloma. It affects the white cells, the bone marrow, the bones, and he was very weak.”
Brindis, who is a popular radio host in Houston, was one of many people who expressed their condolences online. Bay Area DJ Chuy Gomez also wrote about the saxophonist’s legacy in music.
“Today we lost a music legend, an exceptional musician, but above all a great human being,” he wrote on Twitter with a photo of Olivares playing the saxophone. “May Mr. Fito Olivares rest in peace. A hug to the sky.”
“R.I.P. Fito Olivares, el mero mero de la cumbia. Some great cumbia music came from this man and his group,” Gomez wrote.