John Ventura, a.k.a. El Caballo Negro, has died at the age of 81. According to Billboard, the merengue legend suffered a sudden heart attack and was pronounced dead at Santiago’s Clínica Unión Medica del Norte in the Dominican Republic. Ventura was a prolific singer, songwriter, bandleader, and arranger of merengue. His band, the Combo Show, added visual flair and new instrumentations to the genre. Songs of his, like “Patacón Pisao” and “¿Pitaste?,” are now staples. After achieving success in the States, Ventura was mayor of Santo Domingo from 1998 to 2002, changing his nickname from El Caballo Negro to El Caballo Mayor.
Ventura tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020 and was hospitalized. He recovered from the disease and reported negative test results in April of that year. Shortly before his death, Ventura posted an Instagram video of himself dancing with a fan, captioned, “I miss the human warmth of my audience. Let’s continue to protect ourselves to return to normality soon.”