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Salsa legend Jose 'Cheo' Feliciano dies in San Juan car crash

Jose Luis 'Cheo' Feliciano has died in a car crash in the Puerto Rican capital, he was 78. The celebrated vocalist, on the scene for around half a century, was among salsa's most familiar faces.

Feliciano was killed in the Puerto Rican capital San Juan on Thursday morning when his car collided with an electricity pole. The El Nuevo Dia newspaper first broke the news.

The governor of the US territory, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, declared three days of mourning.

An investigating police officer, Jorge Hernandez, told the AP news agency in a phone interview that the cause of the crash was unclear. Hernandez said Feliciano was not wearing his seatbelt, and that no drugs or alcohol were found in the car.

The 78-year-old salsa singer first showcased his baritone voice on October 1957 with the Joe Cuba band - he took to the stage for the first time on his wedding night, after tying the knot with Puerto Rican dancer Socorro "Coco" Prieto Leon.

Feliciano spent much of his early career in the US, before returning to Puerto Rico for rehab in the in the late 1960s, eschewing the limelight for around three years while he kicked a heroin addiction.

His comeback solo album, Cheo, released in 1972, is considered one of his best. Feliciano recorded 17 albums in total, and was most prolific early in his career.

Feliciano held a major concert at New York's Maddison Square Garden in 2008 to celebrate 50 years as a musician. In the same year, he was honored with the Latin Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The salsa star, born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, is sometimes confused with his younger compatriot and near-namesake Jose Feliciano, a nimble-fingered guitarist and singer.

msh/jr (AP, dpa, Reuters)