Remembering Elis Regina, One of Brazil’s Most Popular Singers
Today marks the sad anniversay of the death in 1982 of Elis Regina, one of Brazil's most popular singers. Born in 1945 in Porto Alegre, Elis Regina Carvalho Costa – popularly known as Elis Regina — became nationally renowned in 1965 after singing Arrastão in a television song contest. Her death, according to her WIkipedia biography, at the age of 36, shocked Brazil. She has frequently been regarded as the greatest Brazilian singer of all time by critics, musicians, and commentators. Her nicknames were "furacão" ("hurricane") and "pimentinha" ("little pepper"), reflecting both her singing style and personality.
Elis was noted for her vocalization, as well as for her personal interpretation and performances in shows. She recorded a string of successful compositions, including a favorite chart of the New Horizons Swing Band, Águas de Março.
Regina began her career as a singer at age 11 on a children's radio show, O Clube Do Guri. In 1959, she recorded her first LP, Viva a Brotolândia (Long Live Teenage Land). Her single, Arrastão (Pull The Trawling Net), made her the biggest selling Brazilian recording artist since Carmen Miranda. Her second album, Dois na Bossa, set a national sales record and became the first Brazilian LP to sell more than one million copies. Arrastão not only launched her national career, it also launched the beginning of a new musical style known as MPB (Música popular brasileira or Brazilian Popular Music), which was different from the bossa nova and other popular musical styles, although samba is very much at its core.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Regina helped popularize the work of the tropicalismo (Tropicália) movement. Her 1974 collaboration with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis & Tom, is often cited as one of the greatest bossa nova albums of all time, which also includes what many consider the all-time best Brazilian song, Águas de Março.
While her earlier records were mostly apolitical, from the mid-'70s on her music became more engaged, and she began to choose compositions and structure her conceptually complex live shows in ways to criticize the military government, capitalism, racial and sexual injustice, and other forms of inequality. Lyrics to songs recorded towards the end of her career carried overt socialist leanings, and in 1980, she joined the Workers' Party. She sometimes criticized the Brazilian dictatorship, which had persecuted and exiled many musicians of her generation. In a 1969 interview in Europe, she said that Brazil was being run by "gorillas." Her popularity kept her out of jail, but she was eventually compelled by the authorities to sing the Brazilian national anthem in a stadium show.
Regina died at the age of 36 in 1982 from an accidental cocaine, alcohol, and temazepam interaction. More than 15,000 people attended her wake, with large groups of fans singing her songs. More than 100,000 people followed her funeral procession through São Paulo.