LISBON (Reuters) – Portuguese singer Carlos do Carmo, one of the country’s most beloved artists who was known as the “Sinatra” of the soulful, melancholic fado music, died on Friday at the age of 81.
Do Carmo, born in Lisbon in 1939, said goodbye to the stage last year after a long career during which he took fado around the world. He became the first Portuguese artist to receive a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
He died on the morning of New Year’s Day at Lisbon’s Santa Maria hospital after suffering an aortic aneurysm, Portuguese media reported.
“Carlos do Carmo was not only a notable fado singer… one of his greatest contributions to Portuguese culture was the way he renewed fado and prepared it for the future,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa wrote on Twitter.
“He was the voice of Portugal,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said on broadcaster TVI.
Fado, which grew out of the streets and taverns of Lisbon in the 19th century, expresses the Portuguese tendency to “saudade” – a word for which no direct translation exists but implies a bitter-sweet sense of longing.
Although traditional fado songs were the core of do Carmo’s career, he brought in influences from the musical styles of artists ranging from Brazilian bossa nova musicians to Frank Sinatra to give the musical form his own twist, at times singing with an orchestra instead of the traditional ensemble of just a singer and two guitar players.
He took fado to the world’s biggest stages, from London’s Royal Albert Hall to New York’s Town Hall. He also supervised a film about fado, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007.
In 2009, do Carmo was chosen by Lisbon’s then mayor alongside leading fado performer Mariza to be the ambassador of the musical genre’s candidacy for world heritage status, granted two years later by UNESCO.
Tributes poured in on social media upon news of his passing. The Portuguese navy posted on Twitter on Friday that Lisbon, the city that inspired one Carmo’s most iconic songs, “woke up feeling sadder today”.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Angus MacSwan)