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Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati dies after 4 years in coma

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati died on Thursday, four years after a stroke put him in a coma and ended the career of one of Latin America's most influential musicians.

The 55-year old was the former lead singer of the Argentine rock band Soda Stereo, which was among the most popular groups in the Spanish-speaking world in the 1980s and 1990s.

"He is eternal. He is by far the best musician to come out of Argentina in the past 50 years," Charly Alberti, the drummer for Soda Stereo, told Todo Noticias news channel.

President Cristina Fernandez tweeted that Cerati, along with late Argentine rocker Luis Alberto Spinetta, were "popular idols for generations of Argentines."

Cerati was born on Aug. 11, 1959, in Buenos Aires and formed his first band before the age of 10. Many of the melodies recorded during his childhood became the inspiration for songs later played by Soda Stereo.

Cerati met band members Alberti and Hector "Zeta" Bosio during their college years when they began swapping records of artists such as The Police, XTC and Elvis Costello.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Sept. 20 2007, file photo, Gustavo Cerati, left, of the Argentine band Soda Stereo, performs in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The band will begin touring in October after 10 years of separation, reediting the old successes that turned them into one the most influential rock bands of Latin America in the last the decade. Band front man Cerati died at the age of 55 on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, according to the singer's family. Cerati had been in a coma since May 15, 2010 when he suffered a stroke following a performance in Caracas, Venezuela.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
FILE - In this Sept. 20 2007, file photo, Gustavo Cerati, left, of the Argentine band Soda Stereo, performs in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The band will begin touring in October after 10 years of separation, reediting the old successes that turned them into one the most influential rock bands of Latin America in the last the decade. Band front man Cerati died at the age of 55 on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, according to the singer's family. Cerati had been in a coma since May 15, 2010 when he suffered a stroke following a performance in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

They formed Soda, as the band was known to fans, in 1982, just as Argentina was emerging from a long and brutal military dictatorship. Their first album, a fresh sound with heavy influences of new wave and punk, was released in 1984.

Soda Stereo broke up in 1997, but Cerati continued a successful solo career until he suffered a stroke following a 2010 performance in Venezuela.

Cerati died from a respiratory arrest at the ALCLA hospital in Buenos Aires, director Gustavo Barbalace said. He thanked the singer's mother Lilian for remaining by her son's side for four years and never losing faith that one day he would return to life.

"(Gustavo's) mom is an example of a constant struggle," an emotional Barbalace told reporters outside the hospital. "I wish there were more Lilians in this world."

Cerati won several accolades, including several Latin Grammys and MTV music awards.

Thousands of people gathered at the Buenos Aires legislature later Thursday to pay homage to Cerati. Some fans sang his songs, others brought flowers, while most waited in silence in a line that stretched for 15 city blocks to pay their respects.

"How am I going to say goodbye to him, since he was such a part of my life?" wondered 44-year-old Susana Prieto, who carried a bouquet of flowers. "He formed a part of my adolescence, my first loves, my adulthood."

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PHOTO: People pay their respects as they stand by the coffin containing the body of Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati at the Buenos Aires City's Legislature, Argentina, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Cerati died on Thursday, four years after a stroke put him in a coma and ended the career of one of Latin America's most influential musicians. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
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