Elis Regina Cause of Death: The Tragic End of a Brazilian Music Icon

Elis Regina was one of the most influential and popular singers in Brazil, known for her powerful voice, expressive style, and diverse repertoire. She was a pioneer of the Brazilian popular music (MPB) movement, and collaborated with some of the greatest composers and musicians of her time, such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, and Gilberto Gil. She also had a strong social and political awareness, and spoke out against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. She died on January 19, 1982, at the age of 36, leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable songs and performances. In this article, we will explore the life and career of Elis Regina, and the cause of her death.

A Musical Prodigy

Elis Regina was born in Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil, on March 17, 1945. She was the daughter of a railway worker and a housewife, and had two siblings. She showed a natural talent for singing since she was a child, and participated in radio shows and contests. She won her first prize at the age of 11, singing “Maringá” by Joubert de Carvalho. She recorded her first album, Viva a Brotolândia, in 1961, when she was 16 years old. She moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1964, where she met some of the leading figures of the bossa nova genre, such as João Gilberto, Vinicius de Moraes, and Tom Jobim.

She rose to national fame in 1965, when she won the first edition of the Festival de Música Popular Brasileira, a TV contest that showcased new songs and singers. She sang “Arrastão” by Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes, a song that blended elements of samba, jazz, and folk music, and captivated the audience with her charisma and energy. The song became a huge hit, and sold over one million copies. It also marked the beginning of the MPB movement, which aimed to create a modern and original Brazilian music, incorporating influences from various genres and regions.

A Versatile and Innovative Artist

Elis Regina continued to participate in festivals and record albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s, exploring different styles and themes. She sang songs by some of the most talented and innovative composers of her generation, such as Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Jorge Ben, and Ivan Lins. She also collaborated with renowned musicians, such as Jair Rodrigues, Tom Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, and César Camargo Mariano, who became her second husband and the father of two of her children. She had a son from her first marriage with Ronaldo Bôscoli, a journalist and producer.

Some of her most acclaimed albums include Elis & Tom (1974), a duet with Tom Jobim, featuring classics such as “Águas de Março” and “Corcovado”; Falso Brilhante (1976), a live recording of her successful show, with songs such as “Como Nossos Pais” and “O Bêbado e a Equilibrista”; and Transversal do Tempo (1978), a concept album that reflected her political and social views, with songs such as “Querelas do Brasil” and “Vento de Maio”. She also had a successful TV show, called O Fino da Bossa, where she performed with guests and introduced new talents.

A Controversial and Courageous Figure

Elis Regina was not only a musical icon, but also a cultural and political one. She lived in a turbulent period of Brazilian history, marked by the military dictatorship that imposed censorship, repression, and violence. She was not afraid to express her opinions and criticize the regime, even at the risk of being persecuted or exiled. She also supported the democratic movement that fought for the restoration of civil rights and free elections.

She was involved in some controversies and scandals, such as her participation in a propaganda campaign for the government in 1970, which was seen by some as a betrayal of her ideals. She later regretted and apologized for her involvement, and claimed that she was coerced and manipulated. She also had problems with drug addiction, especially cocaine, which affected her health and mood. She was known for her temperamental and demanding personality, which earned her the nicknames of “Furacão” (Hurricane) and “Pimentinha” (Little Pepper).

A Sudden and Shocking Death

Elis Regina died unexpectedly on January 19, 1982, at her apartment in São Paulo. She had spent the previous night with her boyfriend, Samuel MacDowell, a lawyer and musician. She woke up feeling unwell, and asked him to call a doctor. She then collapsed on the floor, and stopped breathing. MacDowell tried to revive her with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was too late. She was pronounced dead at the hospital, where she was taken by an ambulance.

The official cause of her death was cardiac arrest, caused by an overdose of cocaine and alcohol. She had consumed large amounts of vermouth and cocaine during the night, which triggered a fatal reaction in her body. She also had traces of temazepam, a sedative, in her blood. She had been suffering from depression and anxiety, and had been using drugs to cope with her problems. She had also been working on a new album, Saudade do Brasil, which was released posthumously.

Her death shocked and saddened the whole country, and the music world. She was widely mourned and honored by her fans, friends, and colleagues. Her funeral was attended by thousands of people, who sang her songs and paid tribute to her legacy. She was buried at the Morumbi Cemetery, in São Paulo. She left behind three children, João Marcelo, Pedro, and Maria Rita, who also became singers.


Elis Regina was one of the greatest singers in Brazil, and one of the most influential artists in the world. She had a unique and expressive voice, and a versatile and innovative style. She sang songs that reflected the Brazilian culture, history, and identity, and that touched the hearts and souls of millions of people. She also had a strong and courageous personality, and a controversial and tragic life. She died at the age of 36, due to a cardiac arrest caused by cocaine and alcohol. She will be remembered as a legend and an icon of Brazilian music.