Argentine Singer Mercedes Sosa Dies At 74 Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa died Sunday at age 74. Sosa rose from hardscrabble circumstances to become a powerful voice against Latin America's dictators of the 1960s and '70s. And she had some powerful musical collaborators: from Joan Baez to Sting to Shakira.

Argentine Singer Mercedes Sosa Dies At 74

Argentine Singer Mercedes Sosa Dies At 74

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Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa died Sunday at age 74. Sosa rose from hardscrabble circumstances to become a powerful voice against Latin America's dictators of the 1960s and '70s. And she had some powerful musical collaborators: from Joan Baez to Sting to Shakira.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MERCEDES SOSA (Singer): (Singing foreign language).

GUY RAZ, host:

That's the voice of Argentinean singer, Mercedes Sosa. She died today at age 74 in Buenos Aires. She became an international symbol of protest against the dictators of Latin America in the 1960s and '70s. And through her five-decade career, she teamed up with a wide range of musicians, from Joan Baez to Sting to Shakira.

NPR's Felix Contreras has this appreciation.

FELIX CONTRERAS: Mercedes Sosa took on brutal military dictatorships with just her voice and a guitar.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SOSA: (Singing foreign language).

CONTRERAS: Sosa was born in northwest Argentina to a day laborer and a washerwoman, and those humble roots influenced her music throughout her career. After her debut at a prestigious folk festival in the country's capital of Buenos Aires, Sosa became part of a movement called Nueva Cancion or New Song. It revitalized Latin American folk traditions with new lyrics about social justice, non-violence and a veneration of the land and the people who work it.

Mr. GUSTAVO SANTAOLALLA (Musician): She really represents, I would say, the Mother Earth for us.

CONTRERAS: Gustavo Santaolalla met Sosa when he was a young Argentine rock musician. He's gone on to become a multiple Grammy winner and producer who also won and Oscar for his soundtrack to the film "Brokeback Mountain." He says Sosa's talents as a singer are what made her so revered.

Mr. SANTAOLALLA: She's an incredible artist with an absolutely gifted voice and a gifted way of expressing herself.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SOSA: (Singing foreign language).

CONTRERAS: By the end of the 1960s, Sosa's interpretations of other composer's songs made her a leading voice of Nueva Cancion. During the next decade, Sosa's influence spread beyond Argentina to musical movements throughout Latin America. Sosa also caught the attention of the military dictatorship ruling Argentina in the late 1970s, which harassed and threatened her. She was forbidden to perform, her songs were banned from radio and television. And in 1979, she fled to Europe.

After three years, she returned to Argentina, and even though a weakened dictatorship was still in power, she received a hero's welcome, performing a dozen concerts in a row at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

Mr. SANTAOLALLA: She's like a national treasure. And I think, you know, she goes beyond Argentina.

CONTRERAS: Gustavo Santaolalla says after her return, her musical scope expanded.

Mr. SANTAOLALLA: She was always, you know, in contact with, I think, the widest spectrum of artists to being a folk singer, you know? She didn't just retrieve herself to that corner. She opened herself and shared her artistry with people that came from different genres.

CONTRERAS: Her final album features duets with a new generation of Latin singers, including Colombian pop star, Shakira.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SOSA and Ms. SHAKIRA (Singers):(Singing foreign language).

CONTRERAS: Her last album is called "Cantora," which means simply singer, and that perhaps is her greatest legacy.

Felix Contreras, NPR News.

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