Mari Trini (12 July 1947 – 6 April 2009), born Maria Trinidad Perez Miravete, was a Spanish pop singer and actress from Caravaca de la Cruz. Her intensity, with a strong undercurrent of melancholy, expressed in an intimate, slightly rasping voice, brought comparisons with Edith Piaf.
She was born María Trinidad Pérez de Miravete in Murcia, in south-east Spain. Her life and character were marked by chronic kidney disease that confined her to bed from the ages of 7 to 14. Corticoid treatment deformed the left side of her face for life. In a crisis when she was 11, she was administered the last rites. During these years, she read widely, studied music, learnt to play the guitar and developed ambitions to be a singer. Then, when she was 14, the doctor pronounced her condition incurable. "Stubborn, violent, possessive and radically independent," in her own words, she got out of bed, "put on my first pair of heels" and fled her nightmare childhood.
In Madrid, she sang with her guitar at the American film director Nicholas Ray's nightclub Nicha's in Avenida de América. Impressed, Ray arranged for her to go to London to study dramatic art. Ray's promise of a film part came to nothing and she moved on to Paris in 1963, where she stayed for five years. Here she got to know Jacques Brel and had her first record issued (Bonne Chance).
After her father died in 1967, Mari Trini, as she now styled herself, returned to Spain, set on becoming the Spanish Juliette Greco. It was a rich period for Spanish popular music. Opposition to the Franco dictatorship, spurred on by the shockwaves of the events of May 1968 in Paris, created an audience for protest singers. Songs of personal freedom, like Trini's, took on a political edge.
In 1968 she cut three singles, but it was in 1970 with her first album, Amores (Loves), that Trini became famous, singing her own songs. Her intonation, phrasing and Parisian-bohemian style (wearing jeans on television, as she did, was considered outrageous) brought French song to Spain in a series of pop ballads, such as the 1972 Yo no soy esa (That's not me). Franco's Spain was so repressive that this song by a woman refusing a subordinate role ("That's not me/I'm not your simple quiet young miss") was heard by a new generation as a call to freedom.
During the 1970s, Trini composed and performed several songs that are now standards, with titles such as Acércate (Come close), Un hombre marchó (One man left) or Una estrella en mi jardín (A star in my garden). Small, she dressed soberly in jeans or trouser suits. She relied on her magnificent voice and complex songs about the difficulties of love. As a lesbian, at a time when it was impossible to come out and have a career, she had to endure endless questions about her lack of boyfriends. She handled this by becoming fiercely protective of her private life.
In the early 80s, her style became closer to pop, with fuller orchestral backings. By the 1990s, however, she was no longer filling concert halls. In 2001, she made a comeback with the CD Mari Trini con Los Panchos, in which she and the three-man Los Panchos sang their greatest hits with new arrangements.
Trini made 25 records and was awarded a special diamond disc in 2005 by the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers for reaching sales of 10m. In March 2008, on International Women's Day, the regional government of Murcia gave her the "Struggle for Equality" prize "for portraying through her songs women's needs, problems and inequalities".
She suffered from ill health in her last years: in 2004 she had a kidney removed. She died at a hospital in Murcia, Spain on April 6th, 2009 at the age of 61 from lung cancer.
(Compiled mainly from Guardian obit by Michael Eaude.)