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Elis Regina: Little Pepper

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Elis Regina was one of Brazil's most beloved singers. Born in Porto Alegre, a major port city in the southern part of the country, Regina was a child singing star on local radio. In her teens she moved to Rio de Janeiro to record her first album. When she was 20, she competed in her first festival singing contest, where she sang an impassioned rendition of Arrastão by Edu Lobo and Vinícius de Moraes. Because the 1965 festival was broadcast on TV, her intense performance sent her popularity soaring. The album on which the song was recorded became a major national hit. Her second album, Dois na Bossa with Jair Rodrigues, sold over a million copies, the first Brazilian album to hit that mark. The media began to call her the Little Pepper.

But despite a broad smile that narrowed her eyes and voice that easily won a nation's heart, Regina's escalating recording, travel and performing obligations in the 1970s and a series of failed marriages took a toll on her emotionally. To weather the stress and anxiety, and to manage her sleeping and waking patterns, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. In January 1982, she died from cardiac arrest after a sizable combination of vermouth, cocaine and tranquilizers. She was only 36 years old.    

Here are 11 clips of Regina performing live. Watching her, it's easy to see why so many in Brazil fell in love with her and eagerly awaited a smile that made her look completely filled with joy:

Here's Elis Regina singing Arrastão on Brazilian TV in 1965 during the first Música Popular Brasileira or MPB...



Here's Regina in 1966...



Here's Regina in 1968...



Here's Regina with Sacha Distel on his TV show in Paris in 1968...



Here's Regina in 1969 with Toots Thielemans singing and whistling his composition Bluesette...



Here's Regina on Swedish TV singing Deixa...



Here's Regina and guitarist Edu Lobo in concert in 1969...



Here's Regina in 1972...



Here's Regina in Italy in 1972...



Here's Regina's famous duet with Antonio Carlos Jobim on his song Aquas de Marco in 1974...



And here's Regina with pianist Hermeto Paschoal singing The Girl From Ipanema in 1979 in Montreux...



Other Brazilian singers in this series are Syliva Telles, Nara Leão and Eliana Pittman.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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