The best and longest preserved of the Mexican cancion ranchera singers, Chavela Vargas began singing rather late in life -- past the age of 30 -- but continued well into old age, charming audiences until she was well into her seventies.
Born in Costa Rica in 1919, she first sang on a professional level in the early '50s, and toured with the legendary José Alfredo Jiménez. Her first recordings appeared in 1961, and she became quite popular during the 1960s and '70s, both in her native land as well as across the ocean in Spain and Europe. Although she retired in 1979, a victim of alcoholism, Vargas returned in 1990 after accepting a role in the Werner Herzog film A Cry of Stone. One year later, she contributed a song to the soundtrack of Tacones Lejanos, and in 1993 she entered a recording studio for the first time in decades. Chavela Vargas died in August 2012 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico at the age of 93, after suffering from heart and respiratory problems. ~ John Bush, Rovi