Elza da Conceição Soares, best known as Elza Soares (Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈɛwzɐ ˈswaɾis]; born June 23, 1937) is a Brazilian samba recording artist.
In 1999, she was elected by the BBC Radio as the Brazilian singer of the millennium. This competition was originated in a project called The Millennium Concerts, by the British Broadcasting Company, to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000. She was married to Brazilian football player Garrincha.
Elza Soares's father, Gomes Soares, was a factory worker and guitar player, and her mother Rosária Maria Gomes was a washerwoman. She was born in the Moça Bonita, a favela in the Padre Miguel neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.
During her childhood, Soares used to play on the streets, fly kites, play with wooden spinning tops, and even fight with the boys. She led a poor but happy childhood, in spite having to work carrying water buckets on her head. When she was 12 years-old her father made her marry Lourdes Antônio Soares, also known as Alaúrdes, and about a year later she gave birth to her first child, João Carlos.
Because of her desire to sing and because she needed to buy medicine for her new born, at 13 years-old Soares took part in a live singing contest presented by the renowned Brazilian musician Ary Barroso at the biggest radio station in Brazil at the time, Rádio Tupi. At first Soares was not taken seriously, but her humble manners and dress promted Barroso to ironically ask her "What planet are you from?," to which she replied, "The same planet as you, sir." "And may I know what planet that is?," "Planet Hunger," was her reply. Barroso's mockery did not seem to affect Soares, who sang and showed all of her potential. She received money for participating in the show and was able to buy medicine for her son.
She had many children, and when she was 15 years-old her second child passed away. Since her husband was sick with tuberculosis, she started working in a soap factory, "Véritas," in the Engenho de Dentro neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. At 21 she became a widow, having to raise her children--four boys and one girl. Soares continued with her hopes of becoming a singer.
When Soares was 32 years-old she met the soccer player Garrincha. She suffered prejudice in this relationship because she was a singer in the beginning of her career who was involved with a soccer player who had been divorced. This made Brazilian society very angry. People yelled at her, threatened her life, and threw eggs and tomatoes at her house, accusing the singer of breaking up the relationship Garrincha had with his wife.
On April 13, 1969 Soares suffered another loss: Rosária Maria Gomes, Soares's mother, died in a car accident. Garrincha, Soares and her daughter Sara were also injured in this accident. Garrincha was drunk driving on Presidente Dutra highway when a truck was merging into the lane. Everyone in the car was hurt, and Dona Rosário was thrown out of the vehicle and died.
Soares and Garrincha were married for 16 years (1968-1982). Garrincha's friends did not accept Soares as his wife. They used to call her a witch because she would go around bars asking bartenders not to serve her husband any alcohol because he was an alcoholic.
The couple had only one child, a boy, born in 1976. Garricha wanted to have a boy because he had only had girls with his previous wife. The boy was named after his father, Manoel Francisco dos Santos Filho, and received the nickname Garrinchinha. In 1983 Garrincha died of cirrhosis, which devastated Soares, even though they were already separated. On January 11, 1986, there was another tragedy in her life. Her son died when he was 9 years-old in a car accident as he was coming back from visiting his father's hometown, Magé. It had been raining and the driver lost control of the vehicle. The door opened and the boy was thrown into the Imbariê river. Soares was defeated with the loss of this son and considered ending her own life. She soon after left Brazil, touring around Europe and the United States.
After many years looking for her daughter, when Soares went back to Brazil they were reunited and her life had a new beginning. The girl had already graduated, was well-educated, and had a well-structured life. She eventually accepted Soares as her mother.
In spite of many problems in her personal life, Soares is always happy, singing, and smiling when she appears on the media. She is a role model for people who have to go through the problems she had to overcome.
Soares had six children: João Carlos, Gerson, Gilson, Dilma, Sara e Garrinchinha. On July 26, 2015 Soares lost her fifth son, Gelson, when he was 59 years-old. He died of complications after an urinary tract infection.
The beginning of Elza Soares's singing career was when she performed in the talent show hosted by Ary Barroso.
Soares became popular with the songs Se Acaso Você Chegasse, her first single, Mas Que Nada, A Carne, and other well-known samba songs. She was nominated to the GRAMMY Awards and was elected by the BBC London as "the singer of the millennium." In 2007, Soares was invited to sing a cappella the Brazilian National Anthem at the opening ceremony of the 2007 Panamerican Games. In 2016, she performed at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she sang O Canto de Ossanha, a classic by Baden Powell and Vinícius de Moraes.
Her latest album is titled "A Mulher do Fim do Mundo" and was released in 2015. It is in the electronic samba genre and was praised by critics as one of the best MPB albums of the past years. She got the award for Best Album in the pop/rock/reggae/hip-hop/funk. This album is also nominated for Best Album of Brazilian Popular Music and Best Song in Portuguese at the 17th edition of the Latin Grammy Awards.
In the late 1950s, Soares spent one year touring Argentina with Mercedes Batista. Soares became popular with her first single "Se Acaso Você Chegasse", on which she introduced the scat à la Louis Armstrong, adding a bit of jazz to samba. She moved to São Paulo, where she performed at theaters and night clubs. Her husky voice became her trademark. After finishing her second album, "A Bossa Negra," Elza went to Chile to represent Brazil in the 1962 Football World Cup, where she met with Louis Armstrong personally. Her outgoing and over-the-edge style fascinated audiences in Brazil and abroad.
From 1967 to 1969, Soares recorded three albums with the Brazilian record label "Odeon," partnering with singer Miltinho. The albums were titled "Elza, Miltinho e Samba (Volumes 1-3)." The songs in these albums were mostly in the potpourri style with duets that were enjoyed by the critics and fans alike. The albums were produced by Milton Miranda and Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, and they were later re-launched as CDs in 2003 by EMI-Odeon.
In the 1970s, she toured the U.S. and Europe. She has been singing for more than 40 years. In 2000, she was awarded "Best Singer of the Millennium" by the BBC in London, where she performed in a concert with Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Virgínia Rodrigues. That same year, she played a series of avant-garde concerts directed by José Miguel Wisnik in Rio de Janeiro.
Soares scored a number of charts hits in Brazil throughout her career; some of the bigger hits include: "Se Acaso Você Chegasse" (1960), "Boato" (1961), "Cadeira Vazia" (1961), "Só Danço Samba" (1963), "Mulata Assanhada" (1965) and "Aquarela Brasileira" (1974).
A number of Soares's albums have also been re-released on CD in remastered editions: 1961's A Bossa Negra (containing her major hit of that year, "Boato") and 1972's big band backed Elza Pede Passagem (produced by Dom Salvador) being two of her most acclaimed releases. Elza Pede Passagem produced no major hit singles of the size of previous releases when originally released in Brazil; nevertheless, it is now considered a classic and representative of the "samba-soul" sound of the early 70s.
In 2002, her Do Cóccix Até O Pescoço album release earned her a Grammy nomination. The album received outstanding reviews in the music press and featured a who's who of Brazilian artists collaborating with her; Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Carlinhos Brown and Jorge Ben Jor to name just a few. The release kickstarted a number of successful tour dates around the world. Two singles from the album were also promoted to Brazilian radio, "A Cigarra" and "Bambino", both were backed by promotional videos.
In 2004, Soares released her Vivo Feliz album to great acclaim. It contained the single, "Rio de Janeiro", a homage to her city of birth. While not as successful in sales as her previous release, the album carried on the theme of mixing samba and bossa with modern electronic music and effects. The album featured collaborations with groundbreaking artists such as Nando Reis, Fred 04 (former leader of mangue beat band Mundo Livre S/A) and Zé Keti.
More recently, Soares teamed up with Jair Rodrigues and a number of contemporary samba artists such as Seu Jorge for the old school flavoured Sambistas multi artist album which was released in 2009. In 2016, A Mulher do Fim do Mundo was released internationally with the translated title Woman At The End Of The World. She also had the honour of performing at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- Se Acaso Você Chegasse (Odeon 1960)
- Tenha Pena de Mim (Odeon 1960)
- Eu e o rio (Odeon 1961)
- Beija-me (Odeon 1961)
- Mulata Assanhada (Odeon 1961)
- A Bossa Negra (Odeon 1961 / Universal 2003)
- Sambossa (Odeon 1963)
- Na Roda do Samba (Odeon 1964)
- Um Show de Beleza (Odeon 1965)
- O Samba Brasileiro (Odeon 1965)
- Verão do Meu Rio (Odeon 1965)
- O Neguinho e a Senhorita (Odeon 1965)
- Com A Bola Branca (Odeon 1966)
- Palmas no portão (Odeon 1967)
- O Mundo Encantado de Monteiro Lobato (Odeon 1967)
- Negro Telefone (Odeon 1967)
- Com Que Roupa (Odeon 1967)
- Elza, Miltinho e Samba (Odeon 1967)
- O Máximo em Samba (Odeon 1967)
- Balanço Zona Sul (Odeon 1968)
- Diálogo de Crioulos (Odeon 1968)
- Mestre-Sala (Odeon 1968)
- Capoeira (Odeon 1968)
- Onde Está Meu Samba (Odeon 1968)
- Elza, Miltinho e Samba Vol.2 (Odeon 1968)
- Elza Soares e Wilson das Neves (Odeon 1968)
- Boggie Woogie na Favela (Odeon 1969)
- Heróis da Liberdade (Odeon 1969)
- Juntinho de Novo (Odeon 1969)
- Elza Carnaval & Samba (Odeon 1969)
- Elza, Miltinho e Samba Vol.3 (Odeon 1969)
- Samba & Mais Sambas (Odeon 1969)
- Sambas e Mais Sambas (Odeon 1970)
- Se Acaso Você Chegasse (Odeon 1971)
- Sangue, Suor e Raça (Odeon 1972)
- Grade do Amor (Odeon 1972)
- Elza Pede Passagem (Odeon 1972 / EMI 2004)
- Swing Negrão Odeon 1972)
- Maria Vai com as Outras (Odeon 1972)
- Lendas do Abaeté (Odeon 1973)
- Aquarela Brasileira (Odeon 1973)
- Salve a Mocidade (Tapecar 1974)
- Quem é bom já nasce feito (Tapecar 1974)
- Samba, Minha Raiz (Tapecar 1974)
- Com Que Roupa (Odeon 1974)
- Pilão+Raça=Elza (Odeon 1977)
- Elza Negra, Negra Elza (CBS 1980)
- Voltei (1988)
- Carioca da Gema (1999)
- Do Cóccix Até O Pescoço (Maianga / Tratore 2002)
- Vivo Feliz (Tratore 2004)
- Beba-me - Ao Vivo (Biscoito Fino 2007)
- Chega de Saudade - Trilha Sonora do Filme (Universal 2008)
- A Mulher do Fim do Mundo (Circus 2015)