Iconic Brazilian rock singer Rita Lee dies at 75

By Steven Grattan and Eduardo Simões

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Renowned Brazilian rock singer and songwriter Rita Lee, an icon of the Tropicalia artistic movement, died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with lung cancer, her family said. She was 75.


“We announce the death of Rita Lee at her home in Sao Paulo late last night, surrounded by all the love of her family, as she always wanted,” a statement posted on the singer’s Instagram account said, inviting the public to her wake on Wednesday.

Her death brought an outpouring of tributes from artists, politicians and celebrities who cheered her trailblazing role in Brazilian rock.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called her “an artist ahead of her time” and “one of the greatest and most brilliant names in Brazilian music.”

Rita Lee Jones de Carvalho was born on Dec. 31, 1947, in Sao Paulo, to a dentist of U.S. descent and a Brazilian pianist with Italian ancestry.

She was central to Brazil’s politically charged Tropicalia movement, which emerged in defiance of a military dictatorship starting in 1964, and her work at the time was often censored.

With more than 20 albums recorded and 55 million records sold, her songs touched on issues related to feminism and sex in an era when such issues were taboo.

Lee gained fame in the 1960s with the band Os Mutantes, formed with Arnaldo Baptista and Sergio Dias, playing alongside legends of Brazilian pop music such as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso to international acclaim.

Kicked out of Os Mutantes by Baptista, whom she had been married to, for supposed artistic differences, Lee played with the band Tutti Frutti in the 1970s.

That band broke up towards the end of the decade, leading Rita to start her solo career, and she played often with her husband Roberto de Carvalho, the father of her three children.

Rita Lee was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021 and had been undergoing treatment since then.

(Reporting by Steven Grattan and Eduardo Simoes; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang)