Cesaria Evora, Known as 'Barefoot Diva,' Dies at 70

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Cesaria Evora

The Grammy-winning singer had retired in September due to health problems.

LISBON, Portugal -- Cesaria Evora, who started singing as a teenager in the bayside bars of Cape Verde in the 1950s and won a Grammy in 2003 after she took her African islands music to stages across the world, died Saturday. She was 70.

Evora, known as the "Barefoot Diva" because she always performed without shoes, died in the Baptista de Sousa Hospital in Mindelo, on her native island of Sao Vicente in Cape Verde, her label Lusafrica said in a statement on its website. It gave no further details.

Evora retired in September because of health problems. In recent years she had had several operations, including open-heart surgery last year.

She sang the traditional music of the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, a former Portuguese colony. She mostly sang in the version of Creole spoken there, but even audiences who couldn't understand the lyrics were moved by her stirring renditions, her unpretentious manner and the music's infectious beat.

Her singing style brought comparisons to American jazz singer Billie Holiday. "She belongs to the aristocracy of bar singers," French newspaper Le Monde said in 1991, adding that Evora had "a voice to melt the soul."

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