Rocio Jurado

'Spain's greatest' actress and singer
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Maria del Rocío Trinidad Mohedano Jurado, singer and actress: born Chipiona, Spain 18 September 1944; married 1976 Pedro Carrasco (died 2001; one daughter; marriage dissolved 1992), 1995 José Ortega Cano (one adopted son, one adopted daughter); died Madrid 1 June 2006.

With a career lasting more than four decades, the actress and singer Rocío Jurado was known throughout Spain and Latin America as "la mas grande de España" ("Spain's greatest"). First achieving fame as an actress while still in her teens, she appeared in a dozen films, but found greater success as a recording artist, releasing more than 30 albums spanning flamenco, traditional copla and canción ligera (romantic ballads).

Born in 1944, Jurado grew up in Andalusia and so her roots were naturally in flamenco. Her singing talent was first recognised publicly in 1958 during a contest organised by Radio Sevilla at Teatro Álvarez Quintero in the city, where the 13-year-old Rocío won a prize that included 200 pesetas, a bottle of lemonade and a pair of stockings.

After her father's death the following year, her mother moved the family to Madrid, where Jurado began her career in show business. In 1962 she won first prize in the fandangos category at the first Concurso Internacional de Arte Flamenco in Jerez, and in the same year made her cinematic début in Los Guerrilleros ("The Guerrilla Fighters"), appearing alongside Manolo Escobar. By the end of the 1960s, she had appeared in two more films, won third place in the 1969 Miss Europe beauty contest and launched her singing career with her eponymous début LP.

The following decade saw her collaborating with the songwriter Manuel Alejandro in a partnership that won her an enormous following in Latin America with hits like "Muera el Amor" ("I wish love would die") and "Señora". Other big successes included "Como una Ola" ("Like a Wave") and "Si Amanece" ("If Dawn Breaks"). There were gold and platinum discs, and awards including Album of the Year in Spain in 1980 and 1985 - the same year she sang at the White House for President Ronald Reagan.

Her private life was of as much interest to her fans and gossip columnists as her public profile. In 1976, she married the boxer Pedro Carrasco; the marriage was famously turbulent, but produced a daughter, Rocío, and lasted until 1992. On her 46th birthday, she had met the bullfighter José Ortega Cano, and they married five years later, in 1995, adopting two Colombian children.

Jurado was known for her glamorous lifestyle (she owned a ranch in Seville as well as two homes in Miami and one in Madrid), her flame-haired beauty and a velvety pitch-perfect voice. An exuberant stage manner earned her comparisons with Edith Piaf and Shirley Bassey, but also made her the subject of parodies. She took these in her stride, courting publicity with humour and a media-savvy sophistication.

Jon Lusk