Dominican merengue singing star dies at 81

Juan de Dios
Juan de Dios "Johnny" Ventura, the legendary Dominican merengue singer, has died aged 81.

Legendary Dominican merengue singer Juan de Dios "Johnny" Ventura has died aged 81, according to his family and officials in the Dominican Republic.

Ventura died after suffering a heart attack in the city of Santiago, his son Jandy said.

Dominican President Luis Abinader announced three days of mourning for a man many view as the greatest singer of merengue, a style of song and dance that originated in the country and is deeply interwoven with its national identity.

"Today each Dominican feels great pain," said Abinader. "Today each one of us is in mourning, but we are sure that his artistic legacy will remain from generation to generation."

Ventura, who rose to fame by winning a radio contest in 1950s, went on to record 105 albums in a career that spanned more than five decades. His hits included "Merenguero Hasta la Tambora" and "Patacon Pisao".

He also served a stint as mayor of the Dominican Republic's capital city, Santo Domingo, and was popularly known as "El Caballo Mayor".

Tributes poured in from across the music world in Latin America.

"For your music and legacy, for your smile and example, and for dressing up for a party every morning and teaching us all what merengue is !! Thanks Don Johnny!," famed Dominican musician Juan Luis Guerra wrote on Twitter.

Australian Associated Press