AFP

LAS VEGAS

The Latin music world turned out Wednesday to celebrate Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian ballad singer who is one of the region’s most successful artists. The 74-year-old nicknamed the “King of Latin Music” was named Person of the Year at the Latin Grammys, a day before the Spanish- and Portuguese-language music industry’s biggest award night. “I’m very moved. This is without doubt a very special moment in my life,” Carlos, who sported an electric-blue sequined tie for the occasion in Las Vegas, told AFP. “I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved,” he said, overcome by emotion. Carlos’ career crossed Brazil’s borders in the 1970s as he won a following for pop tunes, often ballads about love, that he sung in Spanish, English, French and Italian, along with his native Portuguese.

He has sold more than 120 million records in Latin America, topping The Beatles and Elvis Presley in the region. Asked his secret at keeping fans for so many years, Carlos said with a sly smile: “I don’t know if there is one. And if there is, I have to find it out.” Dozens of artists joined in the celebration, many of them wearing the singer’s signature color white in his honor.

The Spanish performer Miguel Bose, who was Person of the Year in 2013, said that Carlos has “for decades made the soundtrack for many hearts.” “He created a style and contributed greatly to it. He’s one of the greatest,” Bose told AFP. Colombian singer Carlos Vives said that the Brazilian’s romantic songs “will never go out of style, because that’s how you talk about women and love.”

Spanish songwriting giant Alejandro Sanz paid tribute with a powerful guitar version of “Lady Laura,” and rising stars Leslie Grace and Maluma performed “Jesus Christo,” one of the songs in which Carlos reflected on his Catholic faith. Bachata music sensation Roberto Santos played “Un Gato en la Oscuridad” (“A Cat in the Dark”), while fellow Brazilians Ana Carolina and Seu Jorge teamed up for “La Distancia” (“The Distance”).

“I’ll never in my life forget this,” Carlos told the 1,300-person crowd as he accepted the Person of the Year award. Carlos offered thanks with a performance in Portuguese of “Emociones” (“Emotions”) and, in Spanish, his most famous song, “Un Millon de Amigos” (“One Million Friends”), to which the audience clapped along. The Latin Grammys will honor more music greats at the awards on Thursday, with tributes to Cuban singer and guitarist Pablo Milanes, Spanish duo Ana Belen and Victor Manuel, and Argentine jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri.