Elza Soares, one of the most revered singers in Brazilian samba music, died at her home in Rio de Janeiro January 20. She was 91.
Often referred to as the Brazilian Tina Turner, Soares died of “natural causes,” her press representative said.
“It is with great sadness and regret that we report the death of singer and composer Elza Soares,” a statement on her Instagram page read.
“Icon of Brazilian music, considered one of the greatest artists in the world, the singer elected as the Voice of the Millennium had a triumphant, intense life, that moved the world with her voice, her strength and her determination.”
“She will forever be in the history of music. She sang until the end,” her family, her manager, and her team, said in the statement.
Who Was Elza Soares?
Her raspy voice made her one of the most popular and famous singers in Brazil, releasing more than 36 albums over the course of a six-decade career. She also performed at the 2016 Olympic opening ceremony in her hometown.
Born in a favela slum in Rio to a mother who washed clothes for a living and a father who was a factory worker, Soares rose from poverty to entertain audiences across the globe.
In concert hall performances, she touched on the hardship of life where she grew up. She was also keen to highlight in her songs the injustices for women and racism in her homeland.
She became a fierce champion of Black feminism and an outspoken voice regarding violence against women.
“Racism still continues, but we are going to fight it and we will make progress. Racism is a sickness,” Soares told news agency Reuters last year.
In 1966, Soares married soccer legend Mané Garrincha, a forward who helped Brazil win the 1958 and 1962 World Cups alongside Pelé, who many regard as the greatest player of all time
The couple had one child, a boy, born in 1976, but he died aged 9 in a car accident.
Their tumultuous 17-year relationship ended when Soares left Garrincha after he struck her during an argument. He died of cirrhosis in 1983 after a battle with alcohol addiction. Soares died on the same date as her ex-husband, 39 years later.
Daily Folha de S. Paulo wrote about her: “Elza Soares was a survivor. She did not succumb to hunger, persecution during the dictatorship, domestic violence, the death of her children and oblivion by the music industry.
“She reached the end of her life recognized throughout the country —and the world—, celebrated as one of the greatest voices of Brazilian music at all times.
“It is with great sadness and regret that we inform you of the death of singer and songwriter Elza Soares, aged 91, at 3:45 pm at her home in Rio de Janeiro, due to natural causes,” said a note on her social media.
“She had an apotheotic, intense life that moved the world with her voice, her strength and her determination. The beloved and eternal Elza rested, but she will forever be in the history of music and in our hearts and the thousands of fans around the world.”