By Luis Jaime Acosta and Rodrigo Campos
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian singer and composer Joe Arroyo, one of the leading lights of the Andean nation's music scene since the 1970s, died on Tuesday from multiple organ failure, a medical clinic said.
The death of the 55-year-old salsa singer, who had long struggled with a drug problem and diabetes, prompted mourning in the music-loving country and beyond.
"I join the family of Joe Arroyo and the Colombian people for the loss of a great artist. He left us a great legacy, his voice is still present," tweeted Willie Colon, the New York salsa singer and trombonist.
"It is a sad day for music. ... Thanks for all the happiness that you leave us. Viva Joe Arroyo!" Colombian singer Juanes said through his micro-blogging account.
Arroyo died at a clinic in the coastal city of Barranquilla where he had been admitted about a month ago after coming down with pneumonia.
He was best known outside Colombia for his song "Rebellion." It tells the story of an enslaved couple living in the Caribbean city of Cartagena in the 17th century.
The song became an unofficial battle song for the oppressed, analyzed by music theorists and sociologists.
Arroyo, who was known as "El Joe" but whose real name was Alvaro Jose Arroyo, was born in a poor neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia's most popular tourist destination.
Beginning his career singing in local brothels from an early age, Arroyo moved on to perform with famous Colombian bands, including Fruko y sus Tesos and The Latin Brothers.
In 1981, he formed his own band, La Verdad (The Truth), with which he became the most influential voice in tropical Colombian music in the 20th century, biographer Mauricio Silva wrote in local media.
Arroyo cultivated a wide following across social and cultural backgrounds. Silva said Arroyo's voice was heard on 47 albums, and he composed 100 songs, 40 of which topped local and international charts.
"I'm sad about Joe Arroyo's death," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said. "A great loss for music and for Colombia."
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Peter Cooney)