Salsa legend Cheo Feliciano dies in car wreck

Cheo Feliciano performs on June 20, 2008, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Story highlights

  • Cheo Feliciano was killed in a single-car wreck early Thursday morning
  • He lost control of his Jaguar and crashed into a light pole
  • He was a salsa legend and Puerto Rican icon
Puerto Rican salsa legend Jose Luis "Cheo" Feliciano, a giant of the genre, died in a car crash early Thursday morning in San Juan, police said. He was 78.
A crooner with one of the most recognizable and imitated voices in Latin music, Feliciano sang with the long-running Fania All Stars in the heyday of New York's thriving salsa scene in the 1970s.
"Cheo was one of the most important stalwarts and forces of our music," said Juan Moreno Velazquez, a New York-based journalist who has written biographies of salsa's biggest stars. "He will be mourned in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. He connected to the people, a true stalwart of our culture for all Latinos. The passing of this icon leaves immense pain throughout Latin America."
Indeed, the governor of Puerto Rico has declared three days of mourning and, throughout the island on Thursday, many motorists drove with their headlights on in tribute.
Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a statement: "Today, Puerto Rico lost one of its greatest voices."
Feliciano was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and made a name for himself in New York as a musician and singer for a number of groups.
Considered salsa royalty, Feliciano was awarded a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
The fatal car wreck happened about 4:13 a.m. Thursday, Puerto Rico police said.