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Song legend Armando Manzanero, 85, dies after battle with COVID

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Armando Manzanero appeared in Miami for the Latin Billboard Awards in October. Photo: NBC

Armando Manzanero Canché, the modern era’s most acclaimed Yucatecan musician, died early today in Mexico City after battling COVID-19. Yucatán Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal confirmed the news this morning.

The trova legend was hospitalized Dec. 17 after testing positive for coronavirus, five days after also defying warnings against unnecessary travel by flying to Mérida to inaugurate a museum dedicated to his life and career. It was to be his final public appearance.

It wasn’t his only risky trip. Earlier, in October, Manzanero traveled to Miami for a Latin Billboard Awards tribute. His artistic career was remembered and he received a standing ovation in front of a stage covered with colorful Mayan symbols.

False rumors of his death circulated for days, but his health was reported through official channels as either steady or improving. But today the EFE news service and family members confirmed that the 85-year-old singer-songwriter had indeed succumbed to coronavirus.

Manzanero’s first hit was in 1958 with “Voy a Apagar la Luz,” ‘I’m Going to Turn off the Light,” which he recorded with Lucho Gatica.

Later he consolidated his reputation in 1968 with the publication of the album “Somos Novios.”

Manzanero recorded more than 30 albums and more than 400 songs, in addition to scoring many films. Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley are among the artists who have recorded songs written by Manzanero.

The Ticul native was proud of his Mayan heritage.

“My last name is Canché. And Canché means ‘a wooden bench’. It can have two meanings: if you say ‘caaanché’ (lengthening the sound of the ‘a’) it is then a ‘yellow stick.’ But if you say ‘Canché, it is a bench made of wood to sit on, where all those generations of my grandparents and great-grandparents used to sit down to eat and have breakfast by the stove,” the virtuoso shared on the Hermes Music channel.

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