Multiple outlets report that the legendary Dominican merenguero Johnny Ventura, 81, died of a heart attack on Wednesday, July 28, in Santiago, Dominican Republic. According to Al Momento, the news was confirmed by Ventura’s son, Jandy Ventura.
Born Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano in La Vega, Dominican Republic, in 1940, Ventura, whose nickname was “El Caballo Mayor,” started his career at 16 when he performed on Dominican television shows. He adopted the stage name Johnny Ventura in 1959 and sang for several bands, including Combo Caribe of Luis Pérez, La Super Orquesta San José, and the Rondón Votau Orchestra.
Ventura is known for modernizing the merengue style with an eclectic combination of sounds using instruments like trumpets, saxophones, percussion and piano.
In 1964, Ventura created his own orchestra: the Combo Show. The band recorded several albums like La Coquetona, La Resbalosa, and El Turun Tun Tun. His first gold record came in 1971 with the album Ah…! Yo No Se … No. Throughout decades, Ventura recorded dozens of albums from 12 Grandes Éxitos in 1960 to 2016’s Tronco Viejo. He received the Latin Grammy for Musical Excellence in 2006.
Some of his biggest hits include “Patacón Pisao,” “Filete,” “Pitaste,” “El Cuabero” and the holiday classic “Ley Seca.”
Along with his incredible music career, Ventura was also elected as the mayor of Santo Domingo in 1998 and served for four years. In 2000, the Dominican Congress awarded him with the recognition of “El Merenguero del Siglo.”
Fellow musicians from everywhere are honoring Ventura on social media, including Latin Grammy winner Eddy Herrera, who says “merengue will be in mourning for a long time.”
Fefita La Grande was at a loss for words but asked her fans to pray for Ventura’s family during this difficult time.
Musician Techy Fatule thanked Ventura for his contribution to the music industry.
Artist Jossie Esteban posted a photo of him and Ventura and wrote that the merengue singer would “always be in our hearts.”
Puerto Rican bandleader Gilberto Santa Rosa also shared a photo of Ventura and said he would “always remember his musicality, joy, personality and being a people person.”