Renato Russo – SDBT 6

After a long hiatus from the Singers that Died Before their Time series, I’m returning with yet another great.

Renato Russo, born Renato Manfredini Jr., (March 27, 1960 – October 11, 1996) was the formal founder and leader of the Brazilian rock band, Legião Urbana.

Renato Manfredini Jr. was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father was an executive at Banco do Brasil, and they moved to New York in 1967, when Renato’s father was assigned a job position in the city. Later, they returned to Rio de Janeiro before finally, in 1973, settling in Brasília.

At the age of 15, Renato acquired epiphysiolysis, a disease that paralyzed his legs for two years. Renato had to have a platinum implant, which earned him the nickname “Six Million Dollar Man”. Due to this condition, Renato became an enthusiastic reader. He studied Law. He grew interested in music, particularly punk, to the point of creating an imaginary band, 42nd Street Band, where he would be a lead singer and bass guitarist. He worked as a journalist and an English teacher for a brief period before becoming a full-time musician and composer. He chose the stage name Renato Russo in honour of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell and french painter Henri Rousseau.

During the years of 1978 and 1979, he was the bass player of the punk rock band Aborto Elétrico (Electric Abortion). Although the band did not last too long, Renato Russo wrote many songs during this period, that would later become hits of Capital Inicial (founded by the other members of the Aborto Elétrico) and Legião Urbana (founded by Renato Russo).

In 1982, he, along with Marcelo Bonfá, Dado Villa-Lobos and Renato Rocha, formed Legião Urbana (idealized some time before by Renato Russo). With Legião Urbana and Dois, they became widely famous inBrazil, with protest songs at first, and songs about love, spiritualism, family and sex afterwards.

He worked in two solo albums, with English and Italian songs, in the 1990s.

He died in October 11, 1996 from an AIDS related illness. After his death, the remaining members of Legião Urbana decided to dismantle the band. His body was cremated and his ashes were spread over the garden of Roberto Burle Marx.

Russo, who was gay, is survived by son Giuliano Manfredini.

Other examples of his work can be found below…

Faroeste CablocoÍndiosEu Sei, and Pais e Filhos.

Dorival Caymmi – RIP (DEP)

Dorival Caymmi, considered to be one of the most important songwriters in Brazilian popular music, died today of cancer at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

Here’s the story. I’ll do a post on his music in the next few days.

Cássia Eller – SDBT 5

On with yet one more Singer that Died Before his Time…

Cássia Eller (December 10, 1962 -December 29, 2001) was a Brazilian musician. She was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1962, but spent most of her adolescence in Brasília.

In 1990 she returned to Rio and her recording career took off. Her most popular album is the live recording Acústico that she did for MTV Brasil (essentially the Brazilian version of an MTV Unplugged album), and her best-known hit songs are her cover of “Malandragem” (video below), originally written by Cazuza and “Segundo Sol”. Eller is known for her fusion of rock and MPB, and for her extremely deep and husky singing voice. She is also notable as one of Brazil’s most prominent lesbian artists. Her sexuality, along with her musical style, has caused some to draw comparisons with Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls as well as Melissa Etheridge.

Eller died in December 29, 2001 after being rushed to hospital in Rio de Janeiro by a girlfriend. She was admitted in a delirious and incoherent state during which she suffered a series of heart attacks; a police investigation concluded that these were due to a heart condition rather than to drug use (although many believe drugs played a part). She was 39 years old, and at the time of her death, left a young son behind whose custody was assumed by her partner after her death.

Eller still has a devoted following in Brazil, and her popularity after her untimely and unfortunate death has continued to grow. Her music continues to be played daily on various Brazilian radio stations and her CDs are still prominently for sale in stores.