[Marxism] Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa dies at 74

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 4 06:47:49 MDT 2009


Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa dies at 74
The latest album by the "voice of Latin America" is nominated for three 
prizes in next month's Latin Grammy awards in Las Vegas.

Associated Press

4:22 AM PDT, October 4, 2009

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, the 
"voice of Latin America" whose music inspired opponents of South 
America's brutal military regimes and led to her forced exile in Europe, 
died today, her family said. She was 74.

Sosa was best known for signature tunes such as "Gracias a la Vida" 
("Thanks to Life") and "Si se calla el cantor" ("If the Singer Is 
Silenced"). She had been in the hospital for more than two weeks with 
liver problems and had since been suffering from progressive kidney 
failure and cardiac arrest.

Her latest album, "Cantora 1," is nominated for three prizes in next 
month's Latin Grammy awards in Las Vegas, including album of the year 
and best folkloric album.

Affectionately dubbed "La Negra" or "The Black One" by fans for her 
mixed Indian and distant French ancestry, Sosa was born July 9, 1935, to 
a poor family in the sugarcane country of northwest Tucuman province.

Early on she felt the allure of popular traditions and became a teacher 
of folkloric dance.

When she was 15, friends impressed by her talent encouraged Sosa to 
enter a local radio contest under the pseudonym "Gladys Osorio." She won 
a two-month contract with the broadcaster -- the first of many accolades 
over a career that continued until her final days.

"I didn't choose to sing for people," Sosa said in a recent interview on 
Argentine television. "Life chose me to sing."

By the 1970s she was recognized as one of the South American troubadours 
who gave rise to the "nuevo cancionero" (New Songbook) movement -- 
singers including Chile's Victor Jara and Violeta Parra, Argentina's 
Victor Heredia and Uruguay's Alfredo Zitarrosa who mixed leftist 
politics with poetic musings critical of the ruling juntas and their 
iron-fisted curtailment of civil liberties and human rights abuses.

In 1972, Sosa released the socially and politically charged album "Hasta 
la Victoria" ("Till Victory"). Her sympathies with communist movements 
and support for leftist parties attracted close scrutiny and censorship 
at a time when blending politics with music was a dangerous occupation 
-- Jara was tortured and shot to death by soldiers following Chile's 
1973 military coup.

In 1979, a year after being widowed from her second husband, Sosa was 
detained along with an entire audience of about 200 students while 
singing in La Plata, a university city hit hard by military rule.

"I remember when they took me prisoner," she told The Associated Press 
in late 2007. "I was singing for university kids who were in the last 
year of veterinary school. It wasn't political."

She walked free 18 hours later under international pressure and after 
paying a $1,000 fine, but was forced to leave her homeland.

"I knew I had to leave," Sosa told the AP. "I was being threatened by 
the Triple A (a right-wing death squad that terrorized suspected 
dissidents during the 1976-83 military junta). The people from the navy, 
the secret services were following me."

With three suitcases and a handbag she headed to Spain, then France, 
becoming a wandering minstrel. Her pianist and musical director, Popi 
Spatocco, said exile was exceedingly harsh for a woman who loved Argentina.

Sosa returned home to wide acclaim in 1982 in the final months of the 
dictatorship, which she would ultimately outlive by a quarter-century.

The following year she released the eponymous album "Mercedes Sosa," 
which contained several tracks considered among her greatest hits: "Un 
son para Portinari" and "Maria Maria"; along with "Inconsciente 
colectivo" by Charly Garcia; "La maza" and "Unicornia" by Silvio 
Rodriguez; "Corazon maldito" by Violeta Parra; and "Me voy pa'l Mollar," 
together with Margarita Palacios.

Late in life, with South America's military regimes consigned to the 
dustbin of history, Sosa remained relevant by tapping powerful, 
universal emotions, singing about stopping war and ending poverty, about 
finding love and losing loved ones.

"There's no better example of artistic honesty," her nephew and fellow 
singer Chucho Sosa said in 2007. "Her songs reflects how she is in life."

Sosa won Latin Grammy Awards for Best Folk Album for "Misa Criolla" in 
2000, "Acustico" in 2003 and "Corazon Libre" in 2006.

She also acted in films such as "El Santo de la Espada," about the life 
of Argentine independence hero Gen. Jose de San Martin.

Early this decade she took a two-year hiatus to recover from a series of 
falls -- one of which, she said, nearly left her paralyzed.

Sosa returned to the stage in 2005 and went on to perform in some of the 
most prestigious venues throughout Latin America, the U.S., Canada and 

All told Sosa recorded more than 70 albums; the latest, a double CD 
titled "Cantora 1" and "Cantora 2," is a collection of folkloric 
classics performed with contemporary Latin American stars such as 
Shakira, Fito Paez, Julieta Venegas, Joaquin Sabina, Lila Downs and 
Calle 13.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

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