Elis Regina: the voice that never dies

Elis Regina’s impetus was reflected in her singing; an interpretation that sprouted from his gut and that traveled in a second from euphoria to sadness; a sharp voice that remains alive 40 years after that January 19, when his heart stopped beating and the whole of Brazil paralyzed.

The one who is considered the greatest singer in Brazil, and who has been compared to Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday, died at the height of her career. He was 36 years old, had a happy marriage, and had three children who were his adoration.

Elis Regina Carvalho Costa died in the city of Sao Paulo from an overdose of cocaine and alcohol. Her death shocked the entire country and more than 15,000 people attended the funeral procession that bid her farewell.

Four decades later, a series of tributes in Brazil remember this artist whose voice keeps her alive and on her throne.

Small-bodied and only 1.55 meters tall, his appearance did not reflect the volcano that raged within him. He didn’t mince words and his volatile and explosive character marked his life and his presentations. Not in vain one of his biographies is titled “Furacao Elis” (1985, Regina Echavarria).

His temperament earned him the nickname “Pimentinha” (Picantico), a “gift” from Vinicius de Moraes, one of the fathers of Bossa Nova and who wrote the lyrics to “Arrastao”, the song with which Elis Regina jumped to fame, after winning the First Brazilian Popular Music Festival, in 1965, with his interpretation.

His love for singing was already visible since he was 3 years old, but it was at 12 when his appearance on a television program opened the doors to a career that was only stopped by his death.

Encouraged by her father, who was her biggest promoter, she left her native Porto Alegre at the age of 19 to go to Rio de Janeiro, where she arrived on March 31, 1964. The date would mark not only her life but that of the history of the country, which that day suffered the coup that imposed a dictatorship that lasted until 1985.

It was a period of persecution and exile for several artists and thinkers, and a regime strongly criticized by the artist, who even said that the country “was governed by gorillas.”

In that battle, his fight took place on stage and his only weapon was his voice. Singing in his particular style “O bêbado ea equilibria” (the drunkard and the tightrope walker), dozens of times he exhorted the return of the exiles. Since then, the song by Joao Boso and Aldir Blanc has become an emblem against the dictatorship.

Happiness, sadness, anger, patriotism, helplessness, he left everything in the boxes. That is why he turned compositions by famous Brazilian singer-songwriters into hymns and references to this day, such as “Maria, Maria” by Milton Nascimento, “Aguas de Março” by Tom Jobim, or “Como Nossos País” (Like Our Parents) by Belchior.

His biggest nightmare was his own worries, from which he could not get away even in the tranquility of his home, but only one thing caused him to fear: the Devil and his temptations, as he confessed to the Mexican presenter Talina Fernández in one of his last interviews.

A YEAR OF TRIBUTES

There are several tributes prepared to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Elis Regina. From a miniseries that will be launched by HBO to the remastering of “Elis and Tom” and “Falso Brillante”, two of his most outstanding albums.

However, the most original of the tributes will be “Elis”, a “biographical fantasy”, inspired by the artist, which will have a comic format -in the European style, like Asterix- and that the Brazilian cartoonist and cartoonist Gustavo Duarte hopes to launch this year.

It will be a different story, with a girl Elis Regina who will be accompanied by surreal characters and where there will be a lot of colors. A challenge for this cartoonist who for the first time is inspired by a real character to give life to a work.

“It’s a fantastic world, except that everything that happens in that place, in a certain way, happened with her,” Duarte explained.

For this cartoonist, whose line is also present in the worlds of Marvel and DC Comics, studios with which he works, many of the things that happened in the artist’s life will make a kind of “transposition” to create that other fantastic universe.

Adults and children will be able to enjoy this story, which will include transcendental themes such as the dictatorship of Brazil and where Milton Nascimiento and Rita Lee, among other figures of Brazilian music, who were a fundamental part of Elis Regina’s life, will also be present.

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