Amália da Piedade Rodrigues, GCSE, GCIH, (July 23, 1920 – October 6, 1999), known as Amália Rodrigues, was a Portuguese singer and actress. She was known as the Rainha do Fado (“Queen of Fado”) and was most influential in popularizing fado worldwide. She was one of the most important figures in the genre’s development, and enjoyed a 50-year recording and stage career. Amália’ performances and choice of repertoire pushed fado’s boundaries and helped redefine it and reconfigure it for her and subsequent generations. In effect, Amália wrote the rulebook on what fado could be and on how a female fadista—or fado singer—should perform it, to the extent that she remains an unsurpassable model and an unending source of repertoire for all those who came afterwards. Amália enjoyed an extensive international career between the 1950s and the 1970s, although in an era where such efforts were not as easily quantified as today. She was the main inspiration to other well-known international fado and popular music artists such as Madredeus, Dulce Pontes, and Mariza.
- Amália’s first professional engagement in a fado venue took place in 1939, and she quickly became a regular guest star in stage revues.
- At just 22, Amália had already fully realized her trademark swooping vocal technique, which married the precision and control of an operatic diva with the emotional honesty of a folk singer.
- She was already a huge star in Portugal when unknown songwriter Alberto Janes knocked on her door, touting his composition “Foi Deus” (it was god). It’s lyrics seen to have been tailored specially for her: “It was God….Who opened my eyes and let me embrace fado…It was God who gave me this voice.” She recorded her most famous version two years later at Abbey Road Studios in London.
- The arrangement features the conventional trio of fado – acoustic bass, “Spanish” guitar and the chiming twelve-string ‘guitarra portuguesa’. At the time this song was considered almost heretical by some purists for its departure from tradition, which dictated that “proper” fados be sung to one of only two hundred or so traditional melodies.
- “Foi Deus” is so associated with Amália that few others have dared to record it.