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Rexach, Sylvia

Poetess and songwriter Sylvia Rexach was born on 22 January 1921 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Her life was cut short by cancer but she is remembered for her melodic and delicate romantic songs and poems, performed by some of the best artists of her day and since.

After graduation from high school, Rexach dedicated her life to music, playing piano, saxophone and guitar. But she found her real talent lay in poetry and songwriting, composing two her most famous songs, “Di, corazón” and “Matiz de amor”, quite early in her career. During this time, she also composed: “Idilio” which was performed by the most famous Puerto Rican orchestra of the time, led by Rafael Muñoz.

Her fame grew steadily throughout Puerto Rico and Latin America, in places like Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, interrupted by a tour of duty in the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) during World War II.

After the war, Rexach married William Riley, by whom she had three children. Later, after a separation, she returned to Puerto Rico and worked with Ramón Ortiz del Rivero, known as “Diplo” and José Luis Torregrosa, writing librettos and performing comic characters on radio comedy skits. While she also collaborated with guitarist and composer Tuti Umpierre, Rexach continued to compose on her own; songs such as “Alma Adentro” (lyrics) and Nave sin Rumbo, here sung by Carmen Delia Dipiní. These songs were often inspired by the fulfilling gentleness romance and at other times, by the angst of love lost or similar themes. During this time, Rexach also formed her music band consisting entirely of female performers, known as Las Damiselas, which acheived success in Puerto Rico.

In 1951, Rexach began writing a column for the Diario de Puerto Rico newspaper, entitled “A sotto voce”. Later, Rexach was one of the founding members of the Music Composers and Editors Society in Puerto Rico, which she also served as Secretary.

Her life was marred by a bohemian lifestyle that led to alcoholism and other problems that slowly consumed her. Rexach died on 20 October 1961 of stomach cancer.

Posthumously, her songs have been performed by many of the noted artists, including Marco Antonio Muñiz, Gilberto Monroig, Carmen Delia Dipiní and Tato Díaz. More recently, others have also performed or recorded the memorable melodies left by Rexach; Lucecita Benítez, Chucho Avellanet, Ednita Nazario, Lourdes Robles, Lunna and Linda Rodstandt. Rexach’s daughter, Sharon Riley, performed in a television mini-series dedicated to and about the life of Rexach: “Al fondo del dolor”.

Her life was marred by a bohemian lifestyle that led to alcoholism and other problems that slowly consumed her. Rexach died on 20 October 1961 of stomach cancer.

Posthumously, her songs have been performed by many of the noted artists, including Marco Antonio Muñiz, Gilberto Monroig, Carmen Delia Dipiní and Tato Díaz. More recently, others have also performed or recorded the memorable melodies left by Rexach; Lucecita Benítez, Chucho Avellanet, Ednita Nazario, Lourdes Robles, Lunna and Linda Rodstandt. Rexach’s daughter, Sharon Riley, performed in a television mini-series dedicated to and about the life of Rexach: “Al fondo del dolor”.