Brazil’s long reigning rock queen Rita Lee passes away

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Brazilian singer Rita Lee performing in Buenos Aires in 2002. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

Rita Lee Jones, Brazil's million-selling “Queen of Rock” who gained an international following through her colorful and candid style and hits such as “Ovelha Negra,” “Mania de Você” and “Now Only Missing You” Has passed away at the age of 75. ,

Known as Rita Lee, she died on Monday evening at her home in Sao Paulo, according to a statement posted on her official Instagram account.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. She retired from stage performance in early 2010, which she later attributed to physical frailty, and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021, although her son announced a year later that he had beaten the disease. Have given.

With a career spanning six decades, the São Paulo native made a lasting impression with her irreverence, creativity and message-filled compositions that helped introduce Brazilian society to feminism, as well as her struggles with drug abuse. openly addressed

Although she regarded her voice as “weak and a little out of tune”, like a sparrow, she had a long run of best-selling albums, including “Rita Lee” and “Rita Lee and Roberto de Carvalho,” and dozens more. Enjoyed till The songs were featured in widely watched telenovelas in Latin America. The behemoth television network Globo used a rendition of the song “Poison Weed” in three of its programs.

rita lee sings into microphone while playing guitar

Rita Lee in Buenos Aires. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

“I wasn't born to get married and wash underwear. I wanted the same freedom that boys used to play in the street with their toy cars,” she told the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone in 2008. More in rock music. ‘Wow', I said, ‘this is where I'm going to stick my fangs out and give them a really, really hard time.'”

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She was a singer and songwriter, praised for her versatility, playing at least five instruments: drums, guitar, piano, harmonica and autoharp. She was one of the first Brazilian musicians to record with electric guitar.

Eventually, his popularity extended outside Brazil as well. She performed in Portugal, England, Spain, France and Germany. In 1988, the British newspaper Daily Mirror revealed that the then Prince Charles admired her song “Lanka Perfume” and considered her his favorite singer. He won a Latin Grammy in 2001 in the Best Portuguese Language Album category for his album “3001”.

Rita Lee rose to fame with the group Os Mutantes (The Mutants), which debuted in 1966. Color and creativity, as well as irony and irreverence, were Lee's trademarks from the beginning, evident in the gaudy costumes she wore in her shows. By the mid-1970s, Lee was known on the music scene as the “Queen of Rock” after the album “Forbidden Fruit” sold 200,000 copies. Hits on “Forbidden Fruit” included “Now Only Missing You” and “Ovelha Negra”, which were long played on radio stations and in Brazilian soap operas.

She was one of the first public figures to popularize feminist themes in Brazil, such as infusing the lyrics of her 1979 song “Mania de Vos” (Mania for You) with female sexuality and pleasure. Similar songs followed, such as “Amor e Sexo” (Love and Sex), which elaborated on the two, and “Lanka Perfume” (Spray Perfume), an ode to unbridled hedonism.

Later in life, she became a vegetarian and animal rights activist. For decades, she kept her hair bright red and often wore matching lenses, a popular look she abandoned in recent years as she let her gray grow out. She took a vow in 2015 to transform herself into a white butterfly.

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In her autobiography, published the following year, she did not shy away from describing the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a man who came to fix her mother's sewing machine.

She also referred to herself as a “rebel” and a “hippie communist” and described sneaking out the windows of her home as a teenager to play, being arrested for marijuana possession, and drug and alcohol abuse. Wrote about her many stints in rehab clinics. ,

“I admit that my best songs were written in an altered state, and my worst too. I only regret the delay in realizing that the ‘medicine' expired long ago,” she wrote. “My generation faced the claustrophobia of a brutal dictatorship, and using drugs was a way to breathe an air of freedom.”

In an interview with the television program “Fantástico” in 2020, he explained that physical weakness had led him to leave the stage eight years earlier.

“Getting older, for me, was a surprise, because I've never been older in my life,” she told the show. “I wanted to live away from the stage, without sharing my old age with the public.”

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared three days of mourning and mourned the loss of “one of the biggest and most illustrious names in Brazilian music”. He praised her as “an artist ahead of her time,” and her sense of humor, on her official Twitter profile.

Rita Lee sings into a microphone with one hand raised in the air

Rita Lee performs in Rio de Janeiro in 1985. (associated Press)

She is survived by her three children and her husband, with whom she shared a musical partnership of 44 years. In 2021, they released a new song, “Change,” together, and remixes of some of the singer's biggest hits.

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Years earlier, she visualized her future death, as if prophesying:

“I will be in heaven,” she wrote, “with my soul playing my autoharp and singing to God, ‘Thank you, Lord,' at last fainting.” Epitaph: She was never a good example, but she was a good person.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times,