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Johnny Ventura (1940–2021), legendary merengue singer

by Linnea Crowther

Johnny Ventura was a superstar of merengue music who later became the mayor of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

Music and politics

Born Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano, Ventura began his career in the 1950s in the Dominican Republic. He became widely known after forming his own band, the Combo Show, in 1964. He was an innovator of merengue music, helping the genre evolve from its big-band origins as he brought the energy of rock and roll into the merengue sound. His band was smaller than those that came before him, and they sped up the tempo of merengue and offered exciting stage shows with flashy costumes. Ventura was called the “Elvis of merengue” for his pioneering style.

Nicknamed “El Caballo Mayor,” Ventura won six Latin Grammy Awards, including a 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1994, he was elected vice mayor of Santo Domingo, and he became the city’s mayor in 1998, serving until 2002.

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Tributes to Johnny Ventura

Full obituary: Rolling Stone

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