Mexican Music Legend Chavela Vargas Dies at 93

Chavela Vargas, from her DVD Chavela Vargas In Concert

World Music Central received reports this afternoon that Chavela Vargas, a legendary figure in Latin American song died today in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She was 93.

Vargas recently visited Spain in July to promote her new album titled La luna grande, dedicated to Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. This was her first visit to Spain in seven years. On July 10th she performed a concert together with Spanish stars Martirio, Raúl Rodríguez and Miguel Poveda. Two days later, she fell ill and was admitted to a Madrid hospital. She was hospitalized until July 21st. Five days later she decided to fly back to Mexico. In Mexico she was hospitalized again. She died August 5, 2012.

Isabel Vargas Lizano was born in Costa Rica on April 17, 1919. She moved to Mexico in her teens and it became her adopted country. For decades, Chavela’s passionate boleros and rancheras stirred passions in Mexico, Spain and the rest of the Spanish speaking world.

During the 1950s and 60s, she became a friend of well-known Mexican artists and writers, such as Juan Rulfo, Agustín Lara, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera Vargas, Dolores Olmedo, Carlos Monsiváis and José Alfredo Jiménez.

Her first album came out in 1961 and she recorded over 80 albums throughout her career.

Chavela Vargas retired in the 1970s. She returned to the stages in the 1990s and became an international star again thanks to the support of Spanish film director, Pedro Almodovar, who became a good friend and used her music in his film La Flor de mi Secreto.

Deeply influenced by Chavela Vargas’ music, Spanish sensation Concha Buika and Cuban maestro Chucho Valdes recorded “El Ultimo Trago,” a wholehearted tribute Chavela Vargas, who helped launch Buika’s career in Latin America.

In 2010, Chavela Vargas released ¡Por mi culpa! This was a personal anthology of her favorite songs in which Chavela Vargas was joined by some of her friends. Produced by Mexican record label Corason, the album included well-known Mexican singer Eugenia León; renowned Mexican cellist Jimena Giménez Cacho; Argentine singer La Negra Chagra; Mexican sculptor, painter and composer Mario Ávila; American world lounge band Pink Martini; Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina; and Chavela Vargas’ musical successor, Mexican world music icon Lila Downs.

Her last album was the book+CD La luna grande (Corason Records), a selection of poems by Federico García Lorca. Chavela Vargas and composer Mario Ávila added music to the poems. Guitarists Juan Carlos Allende and Miguel Peña performed the music.

Chavelas Vargas received the highest Spanish distinction, the Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, in 2000. She also received the Latin Grammy in 2007, the Gold Medal of Madrid’s Complutense University, the Medal of Merit of Alcalá de Henares University, became Guest of Honor of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and in 2009 she was named distinguished Citizen of the Mexico City.

She lived in Tepoztlán, in Mexico’s Morelos state until the time of her death.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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