She died over the weekend in Los Angeles. A recluse. Fixated on the 1950s.
There’s plenty of great Yma Sumac records to remember her by—Voice of the Xtbay and Legend of the Sun Virgin are her more famous—but to hear Yma Sumac’s 1971 hard rock album Miracles is to know the true melting pot of America: a Peruvian-born singer with a five octave range singing for a heavy metal band arranged by Les Baxter. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime albums; there’s nothing else like it, and in a way, Sumac’s piercing wails amount to what Rob Halford and so many other heavy metal singers tried to achieve afterwards.
There’s a pretty good representation of what Yma Sumac was all about in this video. Unfortunately, no videos of the Miracles era seem to exist online, so I dug out my copy of the LP for your listening, uh, “pleasure.” Here’s the first song, “Remember”: