Elis Regina

Elis Regina
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Elis Regina Carvalho Costa (Porto Alegre, March 17, 1945 – São Paulo, January 19, 1982), popularly known as Elis Regina, was a Brazilian singer of popular and Jazz music. Before her untimely death at the age of thirty-six, she was widely regarded as Brazil’s greatest living popular vocalist.

She became nationally renowned in 1965, after singing “Arrastão” (composed by Edu Lobo and Vinícius de Moraes) in the first edition of TV Excelsior festival song contest, and soon joined O Fino da Bossa, a television program on TV Record. Elis was noted for her vocalization, as well as for her personal interpretation and performances in shows. She recorded several successful compositions, such as “Como nossos pais” (Belchior), “Upa Neguinho” (E. Lobo and Gianfrancesco Guarnieri), “Madalena” (Ivan Lins), “Casa no Campo” (Zé Rodrix and Tavito), “Águas de Março” (Tom Jobim), “Atrás da porta” (Chico Buarque and Francis Hime), “O bêbado e a equilibrista” (Aldir Blanc and João Bosco), “Conversando no bar” (Milton Nascimento), etc. Her premature death, 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.

Elis Regina was born in Porto Alegre, where she began her career as a singer at age 11 on a children’s radio show, O Clube Do Guri on Rádio Farroupilha. In 1959, she was contracted by Rádio Gaúcha and in the next year she travelled to Rio de Janeiro where she recorded her first LP, Viva a Brotolândia (Long Live Teenage Land) and her second LP, “Poema”., employing a number of popular musical styles of the era.

She won her first festival song contest in 1965 singing Arrastão (Pull The Trawling Net) by Edu Lobo and Vinícius de Moraes, which, when released as a single, made her the biggest selling Brazilian recording artist since Carmen Miranda. The second LP with Jair Rodrigues, Dois na Bossa, set a national sales record and became the first Brazilian LP to sell over one million copies. Arrastão by Elis also launched her career for a national audience, since that festival was broadcast via TV and radio. For the history of Brazilian music, the record represented the beginning of a new musical style that would be known as MPB (Música popular brasileira or Brazilian Popular Music), distinguished from the previous bossa nova and other preceding musical styles, although samba is very much at its core. Most of her entire 20 year recorded discography is still available.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Elis Regina helped to popularize the work of the tropicalismo (Tropicália) movement, recording songs by musicians such as Gilberto Gil. 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“. She also recorded songs by Milton Nascimento, João Bosco, Aldir Blanc, Chico Buarque, Guinga, Jorge Ben, Baden Powell, Caetano Veloso and Rita Lee. Her nicknames were “furacão” (“hurricane”) and “pimentinha” (“little pepper”), opening a window on both her singing style and personality.

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, drawing the ire of many Brazilian Leftists. She was later forgiven because they understood that, as both a mother and daughter, she had to protect her family from the dictatorship at any cost. Along with many other artists Elis was living each verse of Geraldo Vandré‘s political hymn:Yet they make of a flower their strongest refrain, And believe flowers to defeat guns. 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 as 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.

Her rendition of Jobim / Vinicius‘ song “Por Toda A Minha Vida” appeared on the soundtrack to the 2002 movie Hable con Ella (Talk to Her) directed by Pedro Almodóvar and her song “Roda” appeared on the soundtrack to the 2005 movie Be Cool.

Elis Regina died at the age of 36 in 1982, from an accidental cocaine, alcohol, and temazepam interaction. More than 15,000 people, among friends, relatives and fans, held her wake at Teatro Bandeirantes, in São Paulo, with large groups of fans singing her songs. More than 100,000 people followed her funeral procession throughout São Paulo. She was buried in Cemitério do Morumbi.

Artist information provided by WikiMedia

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