As one of the few female rockers to play guitar onstage in the 1960s, and as a solo artist who explored sexuality from a woman’s point of view, Ms. Lee was hailed as a feminist hero. When informed of Ms. Lee’s death during a Senate commission hearing, Brazil’s cultural minister, the singer Margareth Menezes, was visibly overcome with emotion, describing Ms. Lee as a “revolutionary woman.”
Ms. Lee herself was a little more blunt about her triumphs.
“When we talk about feminism and all these things, I don’t really have the theory of it, I’m more of the action,” Ms. Lee said in a 2017 television interview. “They used to say that women couldn’t wear long pants. Huh? Yes, we can, I wore mine. They used to say that women couldn’t play rock. I would get my ovaries, my uterus, I’d play my rock ’n’ roll.”
Rita Lee Jones was born on Dec. 31, 1947, in São Paulo, the youngest of three daughters of Charles Jones, an American-born dentist descended from Confederates who fled to Brazil after the Civil War (Rita’s middle name was inspired by Gen. Robert E. Lee), and Romilda Padula, a pianist.
When she was a child, Ms. Lee recounted in “Rita Lee: Uma Autobiografia” (2016), a sewing machine repairman sexually abused her in her home, a traumatic experience that fueled her rebellious spirt. .
Musically inclined, she played in several groups as a teenager and, despite her early stage fright, formed Os Mutantes (the Mutants) with the brothers Arnaldo and Sérgio Dias Baptista in 1966. In an early interview, she claimed that the band, whose name was inspired by a science fiction book called “O Planeta dos Mutantes” (“The Planet of the Mutants”), had “come from another planet to take over the world.”