Here's a birthday honor to pioneering nueva-canción singer and folklorist from Chile, Violeta Parra aka "Violeta de Mayo". She was born into an educated family of poets, artists and singers, and she started playing and singing at 9. Her musician/farmer father died when she was 12, and the family started struggling financially. She started her music career in clubs playing boleros and Mexican styles before marrying a Communist in 1938.
She started singing songs from all over Latin America. After her first marriage dissolved, she formed a duo with her sister and made some records, followed by some touring through South America with circuses. In '52 she started exclusively focusing on Chilean folk tunes and peasant songs, touring and teaching at universities. It was around that time she added the guitarrón to her guitar. She befriended Pablo Neruda and hosted a longtime radio show.
In the mid-'50s she moved to France and toured and recorded around Europe. In '56 she returned to Chile and started a series of influential ethnomusicologist albums, as well as teaching and writing about Chilean folklore. She was also a serious painter & craftsperson.
In the '60s she was between Chile, Argentina and Europe (where she had a romantic relationship with flautist Gilbert Favre) and she picked up the Venezuelan cuatro into her arsenal. She recorded some sides with her children and formed a community center in Santiago.
Her 1965 song "Gracias a la Vida" has been covered by Mercedes Sosa, Elis Regina, Joan Baez, Michael Bublé and others worldwide. The song was interpreted as a suicide note, as Violeta ended her own life with a gunshot to her head. Her children have continued with music and her legacy in song and folklore remain legendary.