Sao Paulo (AFP) – Brazilian singer Gal Costa, whose crystalline voice and transgressive sensuality made her the face of the revolutionary “Tropicalia” movement in the 1960s, died on Wednesday, her public relations agency announced. She was 77 years old.
With his mane of brown curls and seductive smile, Costa sang with some of the biggest names in Brazil’s burgeoning popular music scene in the 1960s and immortalized many of their songs, including those of Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento and his close friend Caetano. Veloso.
She recorded a list of hits, including “Baby”, “Que Pena”, “Chuva de Prata” and “Divino Maravilhoso”, during a career spanning nearly six decades that produced more than 30 albums.
“Unfortunately, we confirm” Costa’s death, a spokeswoman for Costa’s public relations firm told AFP, without being able to give further details.
Costa, who lived in Sao Paulo, had canceled a concert at the city’s Primavera Sound music festival last Saturday on the advice of doctors, after undergoing surgery in September to remove a nodule from his right nasal cavity.
But she was expected to return to the stage and her website listed her next performance as a concert in Sao Paulo on December 17.
The news of his death caused a wave of emotions in Brazil.
“I am very sad and shaken by the death of my ‘sister’ @GalCosta”, tweeted the famous singer-songwriter and former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil.
Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva posted a photo on Instagram of him kissing Costa.
She was “one of the best singers in the world, one of our most important artists who brought the name and sounds of Brazil to the whole planet,” he wrote.
“The country…lost one of its great voices today.”
“A New Kind of Singer”
Costa found her calling early on, as a teenager in the northeastern city of Salvador, where she met Veloso, her sister Maria Bethania and Gil, all on their way to becoming giants of the brazilian music.
She followed them to Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s, determined to succeed as a singer.
“She had never wanted to do anything else in her life,” Veloso wrote in her 1997 memoir, “Tropical Truth.”
“Her beautiful voice and sweet presence was enough for us to see how she could become…a queen of pop. (But) as she liked to say…she wouldn’t be just another commercial singer, but a new genre, with an intelligent repertoire.”
In 1967, she released her first album, “Domingo”, with Veloso.
The following year, the Tropicalia movement was born, an experimental and politically charged fusion of Brazilian sounds with jazz, pop, psychedelic rock and other influences.
Costa sang on the landmark collaborative album that heralded the movement’s arrival, “Tropicalia ou Panis et Circensis”, along with Veloso, Gil, Tom Ze, the band Os Mutantes and others.
When Veloso and Gil were arrested and forced into exile by the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1969, Costa became one of the main spokespersons for Tropicalia and the Brazilian counterculture in general.
But she never had “problems” with the military regime (1964-1985), she said, other than the censorship of one of her album covers for baring her breasts -” India”, in 1973.
Born Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos, the singer nicknamed “Gal” was exposed to music from an early age by her mother, Mariah, who held the radio to her pregnant belly.
“My daughter, you are going to be a great singer,” recalls Ze, her childhood neighbor, telling Mariah to Gal.
“She came out of the womb with a custom voice,” Ze said.
Beyond her musical talent, Costa has become a sex symbol and an icon of the changes sweeping Brazil in these turbulent times, sporting a “black power” hairstyle, colorful, revealing outfits and occasionally showing her breasts on stage.
After Tropicalia disbanded in 1968, Costa constantly reinvented his style, shifting from samba to rock, from soul to disco.
She won a lifetime achievement award at the Latin Grammys in 2011.
She maintained her low-key but persistent political activism throughout her life, criticizing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies on culture and the arts.
She kept her private life largely to herself, but occasionally posted on social media about her son, Gabriel, whom she adopted when she was in her 60s.
“He brought me so much life,” she said.
Costa is survived by Gabriel, now 16, his agency said.
© 2022 AFP