Haydée Mercedes Sosa was born on July 9, 1935, in San Miguel de Tucumán, province of Tucumán, into a humble family. She was born on the same day that Independence Day is celebrated in our country and in the same city where the corresponding act was signed. Mercedes was a descendant of Calchaquíes, French and Spanish, her father was a sugar industry worker who worked at the Guzmán sugar mill, while her mother worked as a laundress for wealthy families. She was going to be called Marta Mercedes, but her father changed her first name in the Civil Registry at the last minute. Despite this, in her house they always called her Marta.
Her first appearance in front of the public was performing the Argentine national anthem at school. Her teacher, Josefina Pesce de Medici, saw in Mercedes attributes for opera. But beyond that appreciation, Mercedes' destiny would be different: "Luckily I became a popular singer," she expressed.
Mercedes was 12 years old and she memorized the songs that she heard on the radio from a neighbor or a friend and she sang them. The radio was a luxury for her family. Lolita Torres, Lola Flores, Miguel de Molina were her favorites.
“I look into my past and I always see myself singing. Singing at home, singing at school, singing at wakes (…) I sang just because, without realizing it, because it came out of me,” she expressed in an interview.
When she was 14 years old, her parents, who were fervent Peronists, traveled to Buenos Aires to celebrate October 17. Mercedes was left in the care of her older brothers, and she felt such unusual freedom that she went with her schoolmates to the LV12 radio station where there was a contest for unknown singers and she won. She introduced herself as Gladys Osorio so that her father would not recognize her. Gladys was the name of one of her best friends and Osorio was the last name of the girl who was the standard bearer at her school. Mercedes continued singing on the radio under that pseudonym until her father discovered her. A month later, after repeated insistence from the radio director, Don Sosa agreed to let Mercedes sign her first contract.
Later, Mercedes, already 16 years old, would sing, encouraged by her parents, in the supporters' clubs of the Peronist Party. Although a few years later, she would join the Communist Party.
In 1957 she settled in Mendoza following her marriage to the musician Oscar Matus, with whom she had her son, Fabián. Matus and Mercedes established an artistic partnership with the poet and broadcaster Armando Tejada Gómez that would be of great artistic and cultural significance. And Mendoza would turn out to be one of the three beloved places of Mercedes Sosa, along with Tucumán and Buenos Aires. Well, her son was born there and she trained artistically.
Along with those three places, Mercedes Sosa also highlighted her special affection for Montevideo, where she was treated for the first time as a great singer, in a series of performances that she performed on Radio El Espectador and on Channel 12.
Mercedes Sosa began singing at a time when the tango of Buenos Aires was being caught up in popularity by music with folk roots, characteristic of the provinces. This was a phenomenon known as the folklore boom, produced by the industrialization of the country and the migration of millions of people from the countryside to the cities, and from the provinces to Buenos Aires. This process entailed ethnic and cultural transformations in the population that differed from those produced by the immigration, mostly European, that occurred between 1850 and 1930.
Mercedes recorded her first full-length album in 1962. In 1963, from the Círculo de Periodistas de Mendoza, she launched the “Movimiento del Nuevo Cancionero” with her husband, Óscar Matus, Armando Tejada Gómez, Tito Francia and other artists, who They would become known as the “New Song Movement.” She would always remain faithful to the artistic principles set forth in its founding manifesto. From there comes the rigorous selection of his songs so that they had a foundation and a strong link with the popular, the constant openness to young authors and musical forms, the intense dialogue with national rock, tango and pop, as well as the dimension Latin American art.
In 1965 her husband abandoned her, leaving her with her only son, Fabián. Mercedes Sosa moved to Buenos Aires, a city that she loved and that she would end up calling her own. There she recorded her second album: “Canciones con fundamental”, which, like her first album, went unnoticed, but which in the future would become the exponent album of the Nuevo Cancionero. That same year (1965), shortly before turning 30, Mercedes Sosa achieved popular consecration in an unexpected way. The fifth edition of the Cosquín Folkloric Festival was taking place, which had become the center of the folklore boom in Argentina, when the musician Jorge Cafrune, on his own initiative and against the wishes of the organizers, had Mercedes take the stage Sosa, from among the public where he was.
She Mercedes went on stage and sang “Canción del derrumbe indio” by Fernando Figueredo Iramain, accompanied only by her bass drum. Contrasting with the political, social and ethnic discrimination to which she was subjected by the authorities, the audience burst into applause even before the song finished, making it the surprise of the festival. This improvised performance received such an ovation that contracts began to fall one after the other from that moment on, and her career, which would span sixty years, began to shine internationally.
In the following years, and with continuous travel, the breadth of musical genres that Mercedes Sosa performed increased, but her personal situation was complicated because her second husband, Pocho Mazitelli, died in 1978 and those were very hard and difficult times. sad for the artist.
Mercedes Sosa never left the stage, despite always having been afraid of performing in public, nor collaborating with other musicians, singers and poets. However, after the military took power in Argentina in 1976 and established the dictatorship, she was forbidden to sing and she was even detained without charge with great international pressure for her to be released. Faced with this situation, in 1979 she decided to go into exile, first in Spain and then in France.
Mercedes Sosa was received in Europe as an international artist. Although the first months were hard, she never stopped working, recorded albums and continued attracting audiences. Despite that reality, the spirit and internal fire remained on pause until the day of her return. She was never able to heal the wound of exile.
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He returned to Argentina in February 1982, shortly before the military dictatorship was forced to begin the transfer of power to a civilian government, after the Malvinas War. On that occasion, led by Daniel Grinbank, he performed a series of historic recitals to a packed house at the Opera Theater in Buenos Aires, which became a cultural act against the dictatorship, while at the same time it was a renewing event for music. popular Argentine music, by including themes and musicians from different musical currents, such as folklore, tango and national rock.
Remembering those shows, Mercedes declared: “The great thing was that all the people were there, more than loving me, loving them.”
There were thirteen recitals to a full house and among those invited to participate were the coastal native Raúl Barboza, the pianist Ariel Ramírez, the tango player Rodolfo Mederos, Charly García, León Gieco, and Antonio Tarragó Ros. The musical direction and artistic arrangements were in charge of José Luis Castiñeira de Dios. Mercedes Sosa's support musicians were the Uruguayan guitarist Omar Espinoza and the percussionist Domingo Cura.
In the recital he included two non-folk songs and one coastal song, which would be emblematic of his repertoire: “Como la cigarra” by María Elena Walsh, “Solo le pido a Dios” by León Gieco and “María va” by Antonio Tarragó Ros. Also included in the repertoire were “Sueño con serpentes” and “Años” by Cubans Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, respectively, which had been banned by the military regime. And it was the first massive dissemination of these authors in Argentina. Together with Charly García she performed "When I start to stay alone", which meant a historical approach to folklore and rock.
The performance was recorded in a double album under the title “Mercedes Sosa in Argentina”, which was a bestseller and one of the outstanding albums in the musical history of our country.
But this return to the country would not yet be definitive, after the series of these famous recitals he had to return to exile when he found out that one of the genocidal soldiers, Admiral Carlos Alberto Lacoste asked: «Who gave Mercedes Sosa permission to be in my country? country?". She was only able to settle in Argentina after democracy was recovered, on December 10, 1983. Since then she has always been committed to the struggles for human rights and the preservation of the democratic regime.
In 1984 he released the album ¿Will the South be Possible?, which includes songs of great political, cultural and artistic impact, such as “Still we sing” by Víctor Heredia, “Everything changes” by Chilean Julio Numhauser (one of the founders of the Quilapayún group). and “Like birds in the air” by Peteco Carabajal.
In 1985 she released two albums. The first was “I come to offer my heart”, taking the title of the song by Fito Páez, which also includes “Razón de vivir” by Víctor Heredia and “Canción para Carito” by León Gieco and Antonio Tarragó Ros. The other album was “American Heart”, a record of the recital she performed with Milton Nascimento and León Gieco, in which Gustavo Santaolalla and Antonio Tarragó Ros also participated as guests.
As a producer, in 1988 she organized one of the most important shows presented in Argentina: “Sin Fronteras”, which brought together at the Luna Park stadium in Buenos Aires the Argentines Teresa Parodi and Silvina Garré, the Colombian Leonor González Mina, the Venezuelan Lilia Vera, the Brazilian Beth Carvalho and the Mexican Amparo Ochoa, in addition to Mercedes herself.
During the 1980s and 1990s she continued to grow and leave her Tucumán, Argentine and Latin imprint. She was able to move the most diverse ethnicities, from China to the Vatican, where she sang in 1994 for Pope John Paul II.
In 2003 she was invited by academic music pianist Martha Argerich to perform together in a recital at the Teatro Colón. Mercedes Sosa considered it an unimaginable honor.
As her international renown crossed borders, Mercedes Sosa took advantage of those opportunities to participate with artists outside of America, such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Nana Mouskouri and Joan Báez, as a representative sample of styles and nationalities. Joan Báez precisely described her as “a brilliant singer with tremendous charisma who is both a voice and a person; She is, simply, the best.”
Sosa achieved countless recognitions and awards not only for her art, but also for her commitment to human rights, among them, the Latin Grammy for best folklore recording in the years 2000, 2003 and 2006. In addition to being a Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO for Latin America and the Caribbean. She was also awarded the UNIFEM Award, a United Nations Organization that distinguished her for her work in defense of women's rights. In 1985 she received the Konex Platinum Award for Best Female Folklore Singer and the Konex de Brillante in 1995 for "best popular artist of the decade."
Among her albums were “Songs with fundamentals” (1965), “I don't sing for singing” (1966), “Mujeres argentinas” (1969), “Homenaje a Violeta Parra” (1971), “Cantata sudamericana” (1972). , “Mercedes Sosa interprets Atahualpa Yupanqui” (1977), “Mercedes Sosa in Argentina” (1982), “Alta fidelity” (1997), her interpretation of the Creole Mass (2000) and “Cantora” (2009), her last work, released shortly before his death, which is a double album where he performs 34 songs in duet with prominent Ibero-American singers and which closes with the Argentine national anthem.
She lived her last years in her apartment located on Carlos Pellegrini and Arroyo streets, in the Retiro neighborhood. The famous birthdays of La Negra were celebrated there every July 9. Thousands of rehearsals were carried out and entire songs were even recorded. And it was there where Mercedes received the journalists when they wanted to make notes. That space that was her house was full of paintings and works of art, with a special warmth, very characteristic of Mercedes Sosa, according to her granddaughter.
On September 18, 2009, Mercedes Sosa was hospitalized in Buenos Aires due to kidney dysfunction complicated by a liver problem. The health of the 74-year-old artist worsened until she died in the early hours of October 4.
Her remains were laid to rest in the “Hall of Lost Steps” of the National Congress, and her family published a letter after her death addressed “to everyone,” in which the artist herself invited people to celebrate her life. her and to sing at her farewell.
Three days of national mourning were decreed and the reference of the voice, in Argentina and in Latin America, was cremated, according to her own wish, to scatter her ashes in three places loved by her: Tucumán, Mendoza, and the city of Buenos Aires.
All Latin American countries, through her leaders, remembered, honored and declared days of mourning for the death of Mercedes Sosa and for her contribution to the hope of the most vulnerable and to the construction of a better and fairer world.
In 2010, her son Fabian Matus founded and presided over the “Mercedes Sosa Foundation”, located at 378 Humberto Primo Street, in the historic center of the San Telmo neighborhood. It is a non-profit cultural institution that seeks to preserve and disseminate the artistic heritage of Mercedes Sosa, in order to promote and develop Latin American culture in the current and new generations of Argentina and the rest of the world, through a multiplicity of cultural activities.
In 2016, her son also wrote and published the book “Mercedes Sosa, la mami” (Editorial Planeta), together with her cousin and journalist Maby Sosa, Mercedes' niece. In 2019, Fabian Matus passed away at the age of 60.