Rita Lee death: Music world mourns Brazil’s ‘Queen of Rock’ who has died aged 75

The founder of rock band Os Mutantes reputedly had fans in Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and King Charles

Annabel Nugent
Wednesday 10 May 2023 07:56 BST
Argentina Rita Lee Obit
Argentina Rita Lee Obit (AP2002)

Tributes have poured in for the “Queen of Rock” Rita Lee following the Brazilian musician’s death.

Lee – best known as the composer and founder of the band Os Mutantes – was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021.

Although the musical artist went into remission last year, it has been announced that she died at her home in Sao Paulo on Monday night (8 May).

A message shared on Lee’s Instagram account invited fans to a public wake at the city’s Parque Ibirapuera.

“At this moment of profound sadness, the family thanks everyone for their affection and love,” the post on her profile read.

Following the news of Lee’s death, one of her sons, João Lee, wrote on social media: “The world has lost one of the most unique and incredible people who ever existed.

“What an intense and spectacular life you had. Admired and loved by so many people. So ahead of your time.”

The Latin Grammy-winning artist was also renowned beyond her country’s borders, with fans from across the world.

According to The Guardian, Lee’s international fans reputedly ranged from Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain to King Charles.

News of her death has prompted a number of tributes from high-profile figures in Brazil.

President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva called Lee “one of the biggest and most brilliant names in Brazilian music”.

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Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Gilberto Gil shared a number of photographs and videos of himself and Lee together throughout the years.

“Rest in peace, my sister,” wrote the 80-year-old musician and former culture minister of Brazil.

The country’s current culture minister, singer and composer Margareth Menezes, hailed Lee as a “revolutionary woman”.

Brazilian musicians Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento and Djavan were among others to pay homage to the late artist. Argentine singer Fito Paez also shared a message honouring Lee.

The Sao Paulo-born musician shot to fame in the Sixties with the rock band Os Mutantes who were linked with the Tropicalia movement, which blended traditional Brazilian music with British American psychedelia and pop rock.

“I was the only rock girl in an all-boys club whose motto was, ‘You have to have balls to play rock,’” Lee wrote in her autobiography, published in 2016.

“I went in with my uterus and my ovaries, and I felt equal to them, whether they liked it or not.”

Lee went solo in the Seventies, releasing 30 albums across a five-decade career, which featured multiple hit tracks such as “Ovelha Negra” (1975), “Mania de Voce” (1979), and “Lanca Perfume” (1980).

In 2012, she retired from performing live citing “physical fragility”. She was 64 at the time.

Also in her 2016 autobiography, Lee wrote what she hoped would be her epitaph when she died.

“I will be in heaven,” she wrote, “with my soul present playing my autoharp and singing to God, ‘Thank you, Lord, finally sedated.’ Epitaph: She was never a good example, but she was a good person.”

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