Saudi singer Abu Bakr Salem. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Abu Bakr Salem, an iconic Saudi singer whose songs warmed hearts and stirred emotions throughout the Arab world, has died at the age of 78, following a long struggle with disease.

He leaves behind him a rich legacy of poems, songs and works of literature that spanned six decades. He has a rich repertoire of patriotic songs and has recently taken part in Saudi Arabia's national day celebrations in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

He was deeply mourned by Saudi and Arab artists who said his death was a big loss for the arts in the kingdom and well beyond.

Abu Bakr who passed away on Sunday was born on March 17, 1939 in Traim, a historic town situated in the Hadhramaut Valley of South Yemen. He later moved to Aden where he took up singing. Some of his poems were turned into songs that were broadcast on the local radio.

He moved from Yemen to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and lived between Aden, Beirut, Jeddah and Cairo before settling in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

His poetic talents first came in public when at the age of 17, he composed his first song, "You are the most beautiful among all roses."

He brought together all the poems that he turned into songs into one book that he called "A poet First, a Singer Afterwards."

In his 20s, Abu Bakr Salem sang religious songs, particularly during religious ceremonies.

He also worked as a teacher for three years, drawing on his training at a teachers' institute, before shifting to the art scene.

Abu Bakr was bestowed several medals and rewards throughout his long and rich artistic career from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and several other Arab countries.

However, Abu Baker suffered from health problems in the last 10 years. He underwent an open heart surgery in Germany and was later admitted in a clinic for several months.

He was also admitted in intermittent periods into King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

Abu Baker was married to two women, from a Yemeni origin as well. One of his sons, Aseel, has chosen to follow on the footsteps of his father.

"My father and mentor has stepped down. From God we come and unto God we return," Aseel posted on his Twitter account, announcing the passing away of his father.

The son made his major breakthrough in the arts when his father Abu Bakr composed the song A Sun Between You and Me that became a hit instantly and remained at the top of the charts for a long time.