October 4, 2009

Argentine singer Sosa dies at 74

Mercedes Sosa, an award-winning Argentine folk singer, died Sunday at age 74 in Buenos Aires of liver, kidney and heart problems, her family said.

No cause of death was reported bit she had suffered from kidney and heart ailments, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Sosa sang of social justice and against government repression, particularly by the right-wing nationalist junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, anad banned her songs from TV and radio.

During a career that spanned five decades, Sosa performed with a wide variety of musicians, including rock star Sting, American folk singer Joan Baez and Cuban song-writer-singer Pablo Milanes.

It's hard to overestimate (Sosa's) popularity and importance as a standard-bearer of folk music and political engagement through folk music, said ethnomusicologist Jonathan Ritter.

Artists are not political leaders. The only power they have is to draw people into the theater, Sosa said.

Although Sosa was not a political activist, she was involved in the 1960s and 1970s nueva cancion musical movement, which melded politically-oriented lyrics about the poor and disenfranchised with folk rhythms and melodies. She was awarded a Latin Grammy Award for Best Folk Album in 2000 for Misa Criolla, in 2003 for Acustico and in 2006 for Corazon Libre.

She was born Haydee Mercedes Sosa July 9, 1935, in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina. Her parents, of Indian and French descent, were day laborers.

Sosa and her first husband, guitarist Manuel Oscar Matus, had a son.