Singer Soraya dies at age 37


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Latin Grammy winner Soraya had big plans for her musical career in June 2000. She had released her third album and was about to launch a two-year tour to promote it.

But when the Colombian-American singer found a lump in her breast, none of those plans mattered. She had a new mission - to take care of her health and help other women understand the cancer that had already taken her mother, aunt and grandmother.

Soraya Lamilla died Wednesday at a hospital in Miami, her adopted home. She was 37.

Soraya, who went by only her first name, left her fans a message:

"My physical history may come to an end, but I am sure that the one that exists in your hearts will be present for all eternity. I'm confident that my existence will leave a footprint in your lives and benefit many women in the future."

Latin music fans and Colombians in South Florida mourned her death. They remembered a simple and introspective songwriter who never aspired to stardom but was passionate about her music and breast cancer awareness.

Enrique "Kike" Posada, publisher of Boom!, a Miami-based magazine that specializes in rock and pop, called Soraya "an artist ahead of her time."

Born in New Jersey to Colombian parents, Soraya became obsessed with music when at age 5 she heard a Colombian folk song, "Pueblito Viejo," during a family gathering.

She landed a deal with Polygram Latino in 1996. Her musical career had taken off.

Two songs from her first album, En Esta Noche (On Nights Like This), made it to No. 1 on Billboard magazine's Latin Pop Airplay charts. She soon won praise for her fusion of Latin genres, rock, Colombian folk music and Arabic influences and was on her way to becoming one of the most praised female voices in Latin pop and rock.

Funeral services in Miami are pending.

Elizabeth Baier writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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