Israelis' Favorite, Argentine Singer Mercedes Sosa, Dies at 74

Sosa was hugely popular in Israel and performed at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Peres Center for Peace.

Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, who was largely popular amongst Israelis, died on Sunday at age 74, state news agency Telam said.

Sosa performed at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Peres Center for Peace in Israel in 2008.

Sosa had been in intensive care in a hospital for days with kidney problems. Her body was to be taken to the National Congress later Sunday for public visitation.

Sosa had been dubbed "the voice of the silent majority" for championing the poor and fighting for political freedom.

Her version of Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la Vida" ("Thanks to Life") became an anthem for leftists around the world in the 1970s and 1980s when she was forced into exile and her recordings were banned.

She also was a member of the Communist Party and her political sympathies attracted the wrong kind of attention during Argentina's bloody 1976-83 dictatorship when up to 30,000 people were killed in a crackdown on leftist dissent.

Sosa frequently asserted herself as a woman of the left but maintained that her only true vocation was singing.

"My life is dedicated to singing, finding songs and singing them," she said. "If I get myself involved in politics, I'd have to neglect what's most important to me, the folk song."

During her career, Sosa received a string of international accolades that recognized her defense of women's rights, including several Latin Grammys and the CIM-UNESCO prize, with judges praising her "great ethical and moral values" and "her constant defense of human rights."

Sosa suffered poor health for several years but returned with a new album in 2005.

"I'm not young or beautiful but I've got my voice and the soul that comes out in my voice," she said in a newspaper interview in 2001.