Brazilian Icon Elza Soares Dies At 91

“Just like Elza Soares wanted, she sang until the end,” family members added in a statement.

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Elza Soares - Photo: Pedro Gomes/Redferns

Brazilian singer Elza Soares died in her Rio de Janeiro home on Thursday afternoon, family members said on the artist’s official Instagram account. She was 91.

The singer “moved the world with her voice, her strength, and her determination,” they said, adding she “will forever be in the history of music and in our hearts and the thousands of fans around the world.”

“Just like Elza Soares wanted, she sang until the end,” family members added in a statement Thursday. The family said Soares died of “natural causes” and did not provide further detail.

Elza Gomes da Conceição was born in June 1930. She became famous singing samba in the early 1960s, before moving to a number of other genres, eventually winning her the title of “singer of the millennium” in a BBC London competition in 1999. Her hit albums include Sambossa, Na Roda Do Samba, Um Show De Elza, Com A Bola Branca, O Máximo Em Samba, and more.

As the Washington Post points out, last month she was featured in a documentary series paying tribute to Black women singers who paved the way for other artists.

In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, she spoke on her resistance to being labeled within a certain genre. “Look, samba is the root of all virtue, right? Samba is what got me started. But I think, if you can sing, you have to sing everything. You can’t let yourself get pigeonholed into a single rhythm.” She added, “Because I was black, because I had a nice body, [people thought] I had to sing samba. But no, I had to sing everything.” Why change things up so often? “Because of course [you should]! You can’t be stuck in time.”

The interview also touched on her inspiration, on the sort of things that kept her creative and active in the music scene. “Other people inspire me,” she said, before adding that it makes her feel, “alive, because it means I get to spread joy. Singing motivates me. It feels like giving birth; like sharing a piece of your happiness, of your voice. I sing for everyone.”

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