Arts, Culture & Media

Remembering Legendary Singer Chavela Vargas

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Chavela Vargas. (Photo Gala Narezo)

A mariachi band played a somber set Monday morning out front of the hospital in Cuernavaca, Mexico where Chavela Vargas passed away last night.

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The beloved singer was 93.

Vargas based her artistic and public profile around her unique reinterpretations of traditional Mexican "rancheras," songs traditionally sung by men about love and their power.

The diminutive woman would appear on stage in pants and often sang in a rough, husky baritone while smoking a cigar and swigging from a bottle of tequila - a transgressive statement in the conservative era of the 50s Mexico when she began.

In the late 1960s, in a battle with alcohol addiction, Vargas disappeared from public performance. She reappeared in a small club in Mexico City in the early 90s and her career was renewed after the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar championed her life and music in his films.

In the last 10 years of her life, Vargas was busy. She debuted at Carnegie Hall at the age of 83 in 2003.