Gustavo Cerati, former lead singer of the Argentine rock band Soda Stereo, which became one of the most influential groups in the “rock en Espanol” movement that defined Latin pop music of the 1980s and 1990s, died Sept. 4 in Buenos Aires. He was 55.
His family announced the death, which came four years after a stroke put him in a coma.
With what the Los Angeles Times called “Byronic good looks, anguished vocals and alternately ambient and power-riffing guitar playing,” Cerati helped make Soda Stereo one of the most popular bands in Argentina and Latin America.
By the time the group broke up in 1997, after 15 years together, they sold 7 million records.
Cerati continued a successful solo career — his 2006 recording “Ahi Vamos” sold more than 50,000 copies within a day of release — until he suffered a stroke after a 2010 performance in Venezuela.
The Latin Grammy Award-winning frontman had a sound that was eclectic and hard to pin down, evoking the dance-friendly electronic pop-rock of the ’80s and ’90s as often as older rock performers such as the Police, a major influence on his early work.
“Mr. Cerati has a gift for sturdy hooks and gratifyingly layered forms,” music critic Nate Chinen wrote in the New York Times in 2006. “His best music has the muscle, but not the bluster, of arena rock.”
Gustavo Adrian Cerati Clark was born Aug. 11, 1959, in Buenos Aires. He first strummed a guitar at 9 and played in a series of rock, blues and fusion bands modeled on popular British bands of the 1970s, using the music to help him learn English.
He formed what became Soda Stereo with bassist Zeta Bosio and drummer Charly Alberti in 1982 as Argentina began to emerge from a brutal military dictatorship. The band rode a wave of national optimism with accessible new wave rock and an energetic charisma that endeared them to huge crowds.
“When you talk about Argentina, you have to remember that 50 percent of the population is concentrated in Buenos Aires, in a city,” he told the Miami Herald in 2010. “And we were in a city that was pretty European, that was looking out from Latin America. . . . Also, I think it’s a kind of special flavor in the Argentine personality, which is pretty chaotic. We’re bums. So it’s perfect for rock music.”
The band’s self-titled first album shot the group to regional fame, capturing an audience that stretched from Mexico to Chile. After their self-titled debut album in 1984, they followed with releases such as “Nada Personal” (1985), “Doble Vida” (1988) and “Canción Animal” (1990), which became classic mainstays of the “rock en Espanol” movement.
Soda Stereo reunited in 2007 for a regional tour that wowed critics in the scope and numbers of fans who flocked to its shows, which were attended with equal fervor by old-timers reliving younger days and young crowds eager to see musical legends up close.
Cerati’s marriage to the Chilean-born model Cecilia Amenabar ended in divorce. They had two children.
Cerati entered a coma in 2010 after a concert in Venezuela, prompting an outpouring of public support across the Americas. Shakira, whose music Cerati often wrote and produced, dedicated the title song of her 2010 album “Sale el Sol” to him. He sang duets with her on her hit Spanish-language album “Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1″ (2005).
“Gustavo, our most important song of all has yet to be written.” the Colombian pop idol posted in Spanish on Facebook on Thursday. “I love you, my friend. And I know you love me. As you taught me, ‘I will use love as a bridge’ which will keep us together forever.”