Johnny Ventura, real name Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano, a Dominican singer and bandleader of merengue and salsa, died Wednesday at the age of 81.

His son, Jandy Ventura, told the Dominican press that his father died in a hospital after having a heart attack, according to NBC News.

The Dominican Republic government tweeted in Spanish, “The Ministry of Culture deeply regrets the death of the great Dominican musician Johnny Ventura.”

“We join the pain that overwhelms his family in these difficult times,” it added. “His legacy will live on forever in his songs and Dominican culture.”

Ventura began his music career in the early 1960s after joining several Latin music orchestras but he became famous once he created his own merengue and salsa orchestra, called the “Combo Show.”

He recorded dozens of albums in his 60-year career, winning six Latin Music Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 to honor his “contributions of outstanding artistic significance to Latin music,” according to the Latin Recording Academy.

Dominican First Lady Raquel Arbaje tweeted in Spanish, “Today is a very sad day for merengue and for the Dominican Republic. Johnny Ventura, El Caballo Mayor, has physically left us, but his legacy and joy will always be with us. My solidarity hug to his loved ones.”

Ventura went into politics and served as vice mayor of Santo Domingo from 1994 to 1998, and as mayor of Santo Domingo from 1998 to 2002.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., a Dominican-American politician, remembered Ventura as “a good friend.”

Espaillat tweeted, “He was a man of his word, a man of endless talent, a national treasure, and an icon of the Dominican community. My heart breaks now that he’s gone, but his spirit must — and will — live on. Rest in power, brother.”

In March 2020, Ventura announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic and was hospitalized. In April 2020, he announced he had recovered and had tested negative for COVID. Ventura is survived by his wife Nelly Josefina Flores, 50, seven children, 17 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, per NBC News.