Cesária Evora, the voice of longing, dies aged 70

The singer who brought the Portuguese-creole songs of her native Cape Verde to the world apologised to her fans for retiring earlier this year

Singer Cesária Evora, nicknamed the "Barefoot Diva" because of her propensity to perform without shoes, has died aged 70.

The Grammy-winning singer, who was forced to retire in September due to ill health, passed away in hospital on her native island of São Vicente in Cape Verde.

Evora was famous for singing blues-influenced music and began her career performing in the bars of her hometown, Mindelo, in the west African island nation.

International popularity came later in life, at the age of 47, when in 1988 she released her debut album, La Diva Aux Pieds Nus (The Barefoot Diva), which launched her career as a recording artist.

Her 1995 album, Cesária, was released in more than a dozen countries and brought Evora her first Grammy nomination, leading to a tour of major concert halls around the world and resulting in album sales in the millions.

She later won the "Best World Music Album" Grammy in 2004 for her album Voz D'Amor.

Evora was best known for singing songs of longing, and her style brought comparisons to the American jazz singer Billie Holiday. She sang in creole-Portuguese and her style was heavily influenced by the local music of her native island.

Evora grew up in poverty in the port city of Mindelo and often refused to wear shoes while performing in support of the homeless and poor women and children of her country.

A heavy drinker and smoker, her health began to decline in later life and she was diagnosed with heart problems in 2005. She suffered a stroke while on tour in Australia in 2008 and later underwent open-heart surgery.

In September, she spoke of her sadness at having to retire, saying: "I have no strength, no energy. I want you to say to my fans: forgive me, but now I need to rest.

"I infinitely regret having to stop because of illness, I would have wanted to give more pleasure to those who have followed me for so long."

Evora is survived by her two children.


Cass Jones

The GuardianTramp

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