Elza Soares, the prolific Brazilian singer who recorded 35 albums and opened the 2016 Olympics in Rio, died Thursday, according to an Instagram post shared on her official page. She was 91.
According to the post, which was signed by her manager, family, and members of her team, Soares died at home in Rio de Janeiro of natural causes. “An icon of Brazilian music and considered one of the greatest artists in the world, the singer who was voted the Voice of the Millennium had an intense life and moved the world with her voice, her strength and her determination,” the post reads. “The beloved and eternal Elza has been laid to rest, but she will forever be in the history of music, in our hearts, and in the hearts of thousands of fans around the world. Elza Soares’ wishes came true: She sang until the end.”
Soares grew up in the favelas of Rio and was often cryptic about her upbringing — even her age was a mystery for several years. She entered a radio talent show in 1953 looking to earn money for her children, according to some reports. She landed a record deal in 1960 and launched a career performing her unique mix of jazz and samba, with “Se Acaso Você Chegasse” and “”Cadeira Vazia” among some of her biggest hits. Over the decades, she reinvented her sound several times, testing out different genres and never shying away from avant-garde scenes and styles in Brazil.
After a hiatus in the 2010s, Soares returned to the music scene with her 2015 album A Mulher do Fim do Mundo, which won a Latin Grammy for Best Musica Popular Brasileira Album. It was acclaimed for its experimental influences, ranging from Afro-funk to noise rock, and its social commentary on police brutality, violence against LGBTQAI people, and the lives of the oppressed in Brazil. She continued producing music late into her life and also received Latin Grammy nominations for her albums Deus é Mulher from 2018 and Planeta Fome from 2019.