Elza Soares, who pushed the boundaries of Brazilian music, dies at 91

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, April 21, 2024

Elza Soares, who pushed the boundaries of Brazilian music, dies at 91
The samba singer Elza Soares backstage at Town Hall in New York on May 19, 2017. Soares, whose meteoric rise from the favela to stardom was later eclipsed by a scandalous affair with one of Brazil’s most famous soccer stars, died on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, at her home in Rio de Janeiro. She was 91. Daniel Dorsa/The New York Times.

by Michael Astor

NEW YORK, NY.- Elza Soares, the samba singer whose meteoric rise from the favela to stardom was later eclipsed by a scandalous affair with one of Brazil’s most famous soccer stars, died Thursday at her home in Rio de Janeiro. She was 91.

Her death was announced in a statement on her official Instagram account, which added that she “sang until the end.”

With fine features that led to comparisons with Eartha Kitt and a rough voice that was reminiscent of Louis Armstrong, Soares became one of the few Black women singers in Brazil to be featured in films in the 1960s and on television in the ’70s.

Her first album, “Se Acaso Você Chegasse” (“If You Happen to Stop By”), released in 1960, introduced scat singing into samba. Her second, “A Bossa Negra” (1961), was conspicuously lacking in bossa nova. Instead, it featured the kind of samba popular in the favelas, thus reclaiming the African roots of a sound whose international success stemmed from taking away samba’s drums and adding complex jazz harmonies.

As her fame grew, she remained true to her roots. “I never left the favela,” she liked to tell reporters, and she often finished shows thanking audiences for “every scrap of bread that my children ate.”

Such talk was almost unheard-of in the 1960s in Brazil, where — despite a yawning gap between rich and poor, and despite a larger Black population than any other country outside Nigeria — publicly discussing issues of poverty and race was considered inelegant.

RCA Records declined to offer her a contract after learning that she was Black, and she spent years singing in Copacabana nightclubs before being signed to Odeon Records in 1960, where she began a long recording career subtly — and sometimes not so subtly — pushing the boundaries of Brazilian music.

But by the 1980s, she was perhaps better known as the wife of the soccer star known as Mané Garrincha — considered in Brazil to be second only to Pelé — than for her music. When Garrincha left his wife and eight children to marry Soares, it was a national scandal. She was widely disparaged and labeled a home wrecker. Angry fans pelted their house in Rio with stones and even fired shots at it.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s, long after the death of her husband, that Soares staged an unlikely comeback, embracing younger composers and producers who were just beginning to discover her music. Her new songs were even more direct than her earlier ones in addressing social issues, openly advocating for the rights of Black people, gay people, and especially women.

Elza Gomes da Conceição was born June 23, 1930, in Rio de Janeiro’s Padre Miguel favela. Her mother, Rosária Maria da Conceição, was a washerwoman; her father, Avelino Gomes, was a bricklayer who played guitar and liked samba music.

Her father forced her to marry Lourdes Antônio Soares when she was 12; by the age of 21, she was a widow and the mother of five.

She said it was a desperate need to buy medicine for a sick child that led her to take a chance singing at a popular radio talent show when she was 15. She showed up in pigtails and a dress, borrowed from her mother, hemmed in with safety pins. She was nearly laughed offstage until the show’s host, Ary Barbosa, asked her what planet she had come from. She disarmed him with her reply: “The same planet as you — Planet Hunger.”

“At that moment everyone who was laughing sat down in their seats and everyone was quiet. I finished singing and he hugged me, saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, at this exact moment a star is born,’” Soares said in a 2002 television interview.

Her singing career took off, leading to appearances in movies and on TV. She was one of the few Black Brazilian women to rise to stardom at the time.

Her career, however, was soon overshadowed by her fiery love affair with Manuel Francisco dos Santos, known as Garrincha. Their romance began at the 1962 World Cup in Chile, where she was representing Brazil as an entertainer, and where her career might have taken a very different turn: She also met Louis Armstrong, who invited her to tour the United States with him, but she chose instead to follow her heart and return to Brazil with Garrincha. That move would have disastrous repercussions.

Harangued by the public and the press, the couple were forced to move to São Paulo and eventually to Italy, where they spent four years. They married in 1966.

Soares was pregnant with their son, Manoel Francisco dos Santos Júnior, when the couple returned to Brazil in 1975. By that time, Garrincha’s alcoholism was becoming a serious problem. He had been driving drunk in 1969 when he had an accident that killed Soares’ mother. He beat Soares, who became known for visiting bar owners to implore them not to serve her husband. But her efforts proved futile; Garrincha died of cirrhosis in 1983.

When their son died in a car accident in 1986 at age 9, Soares was devastated and left Brazil. She spent several years in Los Angeles, trying in vain to launch an international career.

She credited Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso with helping her return to music when she was ready to give up, by featuring her on his 1984 album, “Velo.”

But her output was spotty throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and it wasn’t until 2002 that she regained her stride, connecting with composers and producers from São Paulo’s samba sujo (“dirty samba”) scene to record the album “Do Cóccix Até o Pescoço” (“From the Tailbone to the Neck”), which was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award.

In 2016, her “A Mulher do Fim do Mundo” (“The Woman at the End of the World”) won a Latin Grammy for best Brazilian popular music album.

Soares is survived by her children, Joao Carlos, Gerson, Dilma and Sara, and by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her son Dilson died in 2015.

She continued to find success with younger audiences in the new century, working tirelessly as she approached 90, exploring musical styles including electronic dance music, punk rock and free jazz, and recording albums that fearlessly addressed social issues.

The title of her album “Planeta Fome” (“Planet Hunger”), released in 2019, referred directly to how her career got its start on the radio talent show that would forever change not only her life but the course of Brazilian music.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

January 22, 2022

At 83, Arne Glimcher indulges his inner curator

Phoenix Art Museum selects Jeremy Mikolajczak to serve as museum's new director and CEO in national search

Picasso's Surrealist masterpiece 'La Fenêtre Ouverte' to be offered at auction for the first time

Meat Loaf, 'Bat Out of Hell' singer and actor, dies

A dollhouse you could call home

New work by British artist Rose Wylie on view at David Zwirner

Christie's Americana Week totals $23,686,438

Regen Projects opens an exhibition of new works by Rachel Harrison

Renato Leotta's first exhibition at Sprovieri opens in London

Verisart announces its inaugural curated NFT auction on Artsy

Clare Lilley appointed new Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Historic, contemporary, and never-before-displayed works pose timeless questions

Lawsuit says faculty at a top arts school preyed on students for decades

Award winning Iranian artist Mohammad Barrangi transforms Edinburgh Printmakers for first solo exhibition in Scotland

The Halsey Institute's new exhibition spotlights Native women

75 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, a major auction of moments and memories

Elza Soares, who pushed the boundaries of Brazilian music, dies at 91

Everett Lee, who broke color barriers on the conductor's podium, dies at 105

Hardy Kruger, German-born Hollywood star, is dead at 93

The Architecture Drawing Prize 2021 Exhibition opens at Sir John Soane's Museum

Taylor Mac's 'Fever Dream': Exploring the philosophy of the hang

Exhibition of new collage, ceramic and audio work by Sam Keogh opens at Kerlin Gallery

Brooklyn Public Library opens first ever Lenape-curated exhibition in New York

After being stuck in Russia, a director touches down in Germany

Diamond Art: The DIY Craft Art Lovers Can't Get Enough Of

How to Keep Construction Costs Low with Online Time Clock Software

How to Start A Boondoggle with 4 Strands

How Crucial Is It To Have A Good Number of Followers For a Business

Online casinos - Tips for making the right choice

I Own Ethereum, Says Billionaire Ray Dalio

How to Design a Perfect E-commerce Website in 2022?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful