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Famed Portugal Singer Dead At 79

October 6, 1999

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Amalia Rodrigues, the Portuguese singer whose passionate performances of the country’s brooding ‘fado’ music took her from Lisbon taverns to worldwide fame, died today. She was 79.

She died at home, her record company, Valentim de Carvalho, announced without giving the cause of death or any other details.

Rodrigues’ personal secretary, Leonel Henriques, told the news agency Lusa that she was found dead in her bed, adding she had felt unwell in previous days. The singer had suffered two heart attacks, in 1979 and 1980, and increasing health problems caused her to retreat from public life in recent years.

Prime Minister Antonio Guterres announced three days of national mourning.

``It’s an irreparable loss, a time of great pain,″ Guterres said. ``There are figures who are symbols of an entire people. Amalia will endure in Portuguese history as one of our most striking symbols.″

Amalia da Piedade Rebordao Rodrigues, known popularly as Amalia, became known at home as the ``Ambassador of Fado″ for taking Portugal’s sad and haunting traditional music out of Lisbon taverns and placing it on a world stage.

Her interpretations of ‘fado’ _ which means ``fate″ or ``destiny″ _ gave the world a glimpse into the depths of the Portuguese character.

``Fado″ lyrics are sentimental and melancholic, centering on longing, sadness and fatalism, while the guitar accompaniment combines the influences of Arab, African and Portuguese cultures.

Amalia was always considered the messenger of the genre.

``I don’t sing fado, it sings in me,″ she once said in an interview.

Born in Lisbon, Amalia gained fame in her teens by singing on the docks of the city’s Alcantara port quarter while selling fruit with her mother and sister. Her father was a shoemaker and amateur bandleader.

When she began to appear in a Lisbon fado club in 1939, her career blossomed, opening up roles in Portuguese theater and film productions.

She was a handsome woman with thick, dark hair who sang with her head thrown back and her eyes closed. She often moved audiences to tears.

In the aftermath of Portugal’s April 25 Revolution of Carnations in 1974 _ a leftist military coup that did away with a half-century of rightist dictatorship _ Amalia was accused of being a fervent supporter of the old regime.

Because Amalia represented the essence of Portuguese culture during the dictatorship, leftist elements looked upon her as a sympathizer of the fascist state.

To prove that she had nothing against the new regime, Amalia sang and recorded a version of ``Grandola Vila Morena,″ the song that symbolized the Revolution.

As an international star, she shared billing with some of the world’s leading entertainers at sold-out concerts in New York, Paris, Melbourne and Tokyo.

She married Francisco Cruz, a Portuguese guitarist, in 1940, but they later divorced. She then married Cesar Seabra, a Brazilian engineer, who died in 1997. They were married 36 years. She had no children.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately released.

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