José José

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, we end with a legend.


Emely Naves, Staff Writer

José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz, known by his stage name José José, was a Mexican musician, singer and occasional actor. Jose was born on 17 February 1948 in Calvaria, Azcapotzalco, Mexico City. Born into a family of musicians, José began his musical career in his early teens playing guitar and singing in serenade. When José showed interest in singing, they tried to discourage him claiming that it was too difficult to be successful in show business. In that time, his reportedly alcoholic father abandoned the family forcing José to work to help his mother and younger brother.He later joined a jazz and bossa nova trio where he sang and played bass and double bass. At the age of fifteen, his mother gave him his first piano. Besides working in his teens, he learned to play guitar and sang in the church and in serenades along with his neighborhood friends for extra money.

He spent three years playing and learning music from top Mexican jazz musicians such as Mario Patrón, Chilo Morán, Enrique Herrera, Gilberto Sánchez Galguera and Paco Sánchez, among others. Although he made several recordings with the group, the songs failed to be hit singles. In 1965, under the name of “Pepe Sosa”, pursuing a solo career encouraged by his mother, he recorded the singles “Ma vie” and “El Mundo” without success. He made a breakthrough with his artistic career when he was invited to perform a song for a friend’s sister on her birthday. His friend’s sister was the executive secretary for the managing director of Orfeón Records.

José José found success as a solo artist in the early 1970s. Demonstrating his tenor vocal ability with a stunning performance of the song “El Triste” at a Latin music festival held in Mexico City in 1970, he climbed the Latin charts during that decade. Having achieved recognition as a balladeer, his singing garnered universal critical acclaim from musical peers and media. His music reached non-Spanish-speaking countries like Japan, Israel and Russia. He forged a career as an actor, starring in movies such as Gavilán o Paloma (1985) and Perdóname Todo (1995). Due to his vocals and popularity, José José was considered by Latin audiences and media as an icon of Latin pop music and one of the most emblematic Latin singers of his time.

José José suffered from a severe case of pneumonia in 1972 and his thoracic diaphragm was paralyzed. The disease almost ended his career. He recovered after months of therapy involving breathing exercises. One of his lungs was permanently damaged. The effects of alcoholism, the abuse of cortisone, and his hiatus hernia not only affected his ability to sing but to talk, as well. In 2007, he suffered from Bell’s palsy. As a result of all these problems, he fought a serious depression. In March 2017, José José announced he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. On 28 September 2019, although it was not entirely confirmed since an autopsy was not performed, José José presumably died of the disease at the Homestead hospital in Homestead, Florida at 12:17 p.m., at the age of 71. His death shocked Mexico and within several hours became a national trending topic. A large number of personalities, artists, athletes and politicians mourned his death in social media. President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that “his voice moved a lot of people”, highlighting his collaborations with composer Manuel Alejandro, also added that “the best homage is to keep remembering him and listening to his songs.