João Gilberto

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João Gilberto
Joao Gilberto.jpg
Gilberto in 2006
Background information
Birth nameJoão Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira
Born(1931-06-10)10 June 1931
Juazeiro, Bahia, Brazil
Died6 July 2019(2019-07-06) (aged 88)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Genres Bossa nova, samba, Latin jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1950–2019

João Gilberto (born João Gilberto Prado Pereira de OliveiraPortuguese:  [ʒuˈɐ̃w ʒiwˈbɛʁtu] ; June 10, 1931 – July 6, 2019), was a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist, who was a pioneer of the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s. Around the world he was often called "father of bossa nova"; [1] [2] [3] in his native Brazil, he was referred to as "O Mito" ("The Legend"). [4]



Early life

João Gilberto was born in Juazeiro, Bahia, the son of Joviniano Domingos de Oliveira, a wealthy merchant, and Martinha do Prado Pereira de Oliveira. He lived in his native city until 1942, when he began to study in Aracaju, Sergipe, returning to Juazeiro in 1946. At the age of 14, Gilberto got his first guitar from his grandfather despite disapproval from Gilberto's father. [4] Still, in Juazeiro, he formed his first band, called "Enamorados do Ritmo". Gilberto moved to Salvador, Bahia, in 1947. During his three years in the city, he dropped out of his studies to dedicate himself exclusively to music and at the age of 18 began his artistic career as a crooner at the Rádio Sociedade da Bahia. [5]


Gilberto's first recordings were released in Brazil as two-song, 78-rpm singles between 1951 and 1959. In the 1960s Brazilian singles evolved to the "double compact" format, and Gilberto released some EPs in this new format, which carried four songs on a 45-rpm record. In 1956, he returned to Rio and struck up old acquaintances, most significantly with Antônio Carlos Jobim, who was by then working as a composer, producer, and arranger with Odeon Records. Jobim was impressed with Gilberto's new style of guitar playing and set about finding a suitable song to pitch the style to Odeon management. [6]

In 1963, Gilberto collaborated with American jazz musician Stan Getz on the album Getz/Gilberto which was released the following year. Jobim played the piano for the album while Gilberto's then-wife Astrud performed the vocals in English while he sang in Portuguese. Although Astrud Gilberto was only in the recording studio to be with her husband, João Gilberto requested her to sing on several of the tracks as he could not sing in English. This resulted with a duet between the two on the track "The Girl from Ipanema" which became a major hit from the album. [7] At the 7th Annual Grammy Awards, Getz/Gilberto won three awards including Album of the Year, which marked the first time a jazz album received the accolade. [8]

Gilberto was known for his demanding acoustic and noise-control standards. During a recording session of the song "Rosa Morena", he insisted on 28 takes to get the pronunciation of the o in "Rosa" just right. [9] Nonetheless, despite his high acoustic standards, he skipped a contractually required sound check prior to a July 2003 performance at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles. This negligence (and the ensuing sound fiasco) prompted the audience to stream from the venue before the concert ended. [10] In 1997, Gilberto sued record label EMI over their reissue of several of his early works, which he contended had been poorly remastered. According to The New York Times , "A statement by his lawyer at the time declared that the reissues contained sound effects that 'did not pertain to the original recordings, banalizing the work of a great artist." Following the incident, EMI ceased production of the albums in question, and, as of 2008, the lawsuit was yet to reach a decision. [11]

In 2000, Gilberto won the nomination for the Best World Music Album category in the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards for his work in the album João Voz e Violão . [12] A year later, he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. [13]

In September 2003, Gilberto performed four shows in Japan. [14] His performance at the Tokyo International Forum on 12 September was recorded for a live album titled In Tokyo which was released in 2004. [15] At the 6th Annual Latin Grammy Awards in 2005, In Tokyo received a nomination for Best MPB Album. [16] On 17 May 2017, Gilberto received an honorary doctorate in music from Columbia University but did not attend the commencement ceremony. [17]

Role in bossa nova

With the introduction of the microphone and the amplifier in Brazil, Gilberto realized that the sound source did not need to be emitted intensely, regarding the voice and instrument, which favored subtle and internalized interpretations. On the other hand, at the time of the first "bossa nova" recordings, Brazil still did not have high fidelity recording equipment capable of reproducing more complex sonorities. Due to that, Gilberto and Tom Jobim, Gilberto's first arranger, elaborated complex harmonies under the influence of American music, and at the same time they simplified the general sound, because of the equipment limitation. [18]

In July 1958, Elizete Cardoso released the famous LP, Canção do Amor Demais , containing songs by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. The record, however, would enter the history of Brazilian popular music for another reason: Gilberto accompanied Cardoso on guitar on the tracks "Chega de Saudade" and "Outra Vez", these being the first recordings of the so-called "bossa nova beat". In August of that year, Gilberto released a 78 rpm record containing "Chega de Saudade" and "Bim Bom", recorded at Odeon, with collaborations from Jobim, Dorival Caymmi, and Aloysio de Oliveira. This album inaugurated the "bossa nova" genre and soon became a commercial success. Gilberto's recording had arrangements by Jobim and the participation of Milton Banana, among other artists. Gilberto innovated by using two microphones to record, one for the voice and one for the guitar. This way, the harmony became more clearly heard. Until then, songs were recorded with only one microphone, emphasizing the voice to the detriment of the guitar. With this innovation, voice and guitar could compete equally, if the voice maintained a natural intensity. Thus, it was necessary to issue the voice in a volume close to that of ordinary speech. With Gilberto, voice and guitar are kept at the same volume intensity, with the microphones picking up both sound sources equally, and, if required, changing the volume of both would be in equal proportion. In 1959, Gilberto released another 78 rpm, containing "Desafinado" by Jobim and Newton Mendonça, and "Hô-bá-lá-lá", written by himself. In March 1959, he released the LP Chega de Saudade , which became a sales success and had a major impact in the history of Brazilian music. [18]

Musical style

Gilberto's style combines traditional elements of samba with more contemporary jazz. [1] [3] His "unique" [1] acoustic guitar style involves a syncopated rhythm of plucked chords, with chord progressions rooted in the jazz tradition. [3] His vocal style has been described as "laid-back and understated". [3] Leonardo Rocha, in his obituary for the BBC, states that Gilberto's music describes "a period of huge optimism in Brazil". [1]

Personal life

Gilberto first married the singer Astrud, [19] with whom he collaborated on the hit recording of "The Girl from Ipanema"; the couple had a son called João Marcelo. [20] They divorced, and he later married the singer Miúcha (died 2018); they had a daughter, Bebel Gilberto, who is also a singer. They later separated. Gilberto also had a daughter with Claudia Faissol, a journalist. [1] [3]

Gilberto lived alone from around 2009. His final years were marked by money problems as well as declining health. [1] In 2011, he was sued and evicted from an apartment in Leblon by his landlord, Countess Georgina Brandolini d'Adda. [21] It was reported in December 2017 that his daughter Bebel was seeking control of his financial affairs because of his declining mental state and increasing indebtedness. [22]

On 6 July 2019, Gilberto died at his apartment in Rio de Janeiro. [23] His body was buried in Niterói following a private ceremony on 8 July 2019. [24]

Writing in The Guardian after his death, Dom Phillips described Gilberto as ".. one of the country's greatest musicians and composers, a reclusive genius in a nation of extroverts whose work recalled happier, more optimistic times for a deeply divided nation." [25] In The Washington Post pop critic Chris Richards said, "His voice was one of the most intimate sounds of the 20th century – more melodic than a sigh, more rhythmic than chitchat, only just barely. Every syllable that appeared on his lips carried an air of effortlessness, but Gilberto had worked hard to locate that sacred place where a human breath becomes music." [26]


Gilberto released several studio and live albums: [27]

Gilberto in concert, 1996 Joao Gilberto.jpg
Gilberto in concert, 1996

Awards and nominations

AwardYear [upper-alpha 1] Recipient or nomineeCategoryResultRef.
Grammy Awards 1965 Getz/Gilberto Album of the Year Won [28]
Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical Won
Best Jazz Instrumental Album Won


  1. Indicates the year of ceremony. Each year is linked to the article about the awards held that year, wherever possible.

Related Research Articles

Bossa nova is a style of samba developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is mainly characterized by "different beat" that altered the harmonies with the introduction of unconventional chords and an innovative syncopation of traditional samba from a single rhythmic division. The "bossa nova beat" is characteristic of a samba style and not of an autonomous genre.

Antônio Carlos Jobim Brazilian musician

Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim, also known as Tom Jobim, was a Brazilian composer, pianist, songwriter, arranger and singer. Considered one of the great exponents of Brazilian music, Jobim internationalized bossa nova and, with the help of important American artists, merged it with jazz in the 1960s to create a new sound with popular success. As such he is sometimes known as the "father of bossa nova".

The Girl from Ipanema Song by Antônio Carlos Jobim

"Garota de Ipanema" is a Brazilian bossa nova and jazz song. It was a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s and won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965. It was written in 1962, with music by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Portuguese lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes. English lyrics were written later by Norman Gimbel.

<i>Getz/Gilberto</i> album by Stan Getz and João Gilberto

Getz/Gilberto is an album by American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, featuring pianist and composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, who also composed many of the tracks. It was released in March 1964 by Verve Records. The album features the vocals of Astrud Gilberto on two tracks, "Garota de Ipanema" and "Corcovado". The artwork was done by artist Olga Albizu. Getz/Gilberto is a jazz and bossa nova album and includes tracks such as "Desafinado", "Corcovado", and "Garota de Ipanema". The last received a Grammy Award for Record of the Year and started Astrud Gilberto's career. "Doralice" and "Para Machucar Meu Coração" strengthened Gilberto's and Jobim's respect for the tradition of pre-bossa nova samba.

Luiz Bonfá

Luiz Floriano Bonfá was a Brazilian guitarist and composer. He was best known for the music he composed for the film Black Orpheus.

<i>Jazz Samba</i> 1962 studio album by Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

Jazz Samba is a bossa nova album by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released by Verve Records in 1962. Jazz Samba signaled the beginning of the bossa nova craze in America. Stan Getz was the featured soloist and the tracks were arranged by Charlie Byrd, who had first heard bossa nova during a tour of Brazil in 1961.

"Chega de Saudade", also known as "No More Blues", is a bossa nova jazz standard. It is often considered to be the first recorded bossa nova song. Like "The Girl from Ipanema", the music for "Chega de Saudade" was composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics written by Vinícius de Moraes. João Gilberto's recording is the most famous.

<i>Chega de Saudade</i> (album) 1959 studio album by João Gilberto

Chega de Saudade is the debut album by Brazilian musician João Gilberto and is often credited as the first bossa nova album. The title can be translated roughly as "enough longing", though the Portuguese word saudade carries with it more complex meaning.

<i>The Composer of Desafinado Plays</i> 1963 studio album by Antônio Carlos Jobim

The Composer of Desafinado, Plays is the first album by Antônio Carlos Jobim. Released in 1963, the album features a dozen instrumentals arranged by Claus Ogerman, whose work would mark the beginning of a lifelong musical relationship with Jobim. Of these twelve songs, nearly all of them are jazz standards. The opening track "The Girl from Ipanema" is believed to be the second most recorded song in history behind The Beatles' "Yesterday," and a recording of the song by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz became a worldwide hit in 1964.

"Corcovado" is a bossa nova and jazz standard song written by Antônio Carlos Jobim in 1960. An English lyric was later written by Gene Lees. The Portuguese title refers to the Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Tony Bennett recorded the first popular English cover of "Quiet Nights" with new lyrics by Buddy Kaye in 1963. Numerous English cover recordings then followed sometimes credited to Lees and/or Kaye and Lees, including the Andy Williams recording of the song with English lyrics, reaching #92 in the Billboard Hot 100 and #18 in the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart in 1965. Also receiving air-play, contemporaneously with Andy Williams' recording of "Quiet Nights," was Kitty Kallen's version. Her album, titled "Quiet Nights," was released by 20th Century-Fox Records in 1964.

"Desafinado", a Portuguese word, is the title of a bossa nova and jazz standard song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim with lyrics by Newton Mendonça. It was originally a response to critics who claimed that bossa nova was a new genre for singers who can't sing. The English language lyrics were written by Jon Hendricks and "Jessie Cavanaugh". Another English lyric, more closely based on the original Portuguese lyric was written by Gene Lees, and appears on some recordings as well. The version by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd was a major hit in 1962, reaching number 15 and number 4 on Billboard′s pop and easy-listening charts, respectively; their definitive rendering also reached number 11 in the UK, while Ella Fitzgerald's version made number 38. The song was voted by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone as the 14th greatest Brazilian song. The 1959 João Gilberto album Chega de Saudade contained the song and was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.

<i>Canção do Amor Demais</i> 1958 studio album by Elizete Cardoso

Canção do Amor Demais is 1958 album by Elizete Cardoso. It is often considered the first bossa nova album, and contains the first recordings of João Gilberto's guitar beat, which would go on to become a staple of bossa nova. Gilberto played guitar on "Chega de Saudade" and "Outra Vez".

João Donato Brazilian jazz and bossa nova pianist

João Donato de Oliveira Neto is a Brazilian jazz and bossa nova pianist from Brazil. He first worked with Altamiro Carrilho and went on to perform with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto.

"Samba de uma Nota Só" is a bossa nova and jazz standard song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim with Portuguese lyrics by Newton Mendonça. The English lyrics were written by Jon Hendricks. It was first recorded by João Gilberto in 1960 for his album O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor.

Astrud Gilberto Brazilian singer

Astrud Gilberto is a Brazilian samba and bossa nova singer. She became popular in the 1960s after her performance of the song "The Girl from Ipanema".

<i>O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor</i> 1960 studio album by João Gilberto

O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor is a studio album by João Gilberto, released in Brazil in 1960. The Portuguese title translates to The Love, the Smile and the Flower and is taken from the original lyrics of Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça's "Meditação", which is included in the album.

<i>Big Band Bossa Nova</i> (Stan Getz album) 1962 studio album by Stan Getz

Big Band Bossa Nova is a 1962 album by saxophonist Stan Getz with the Gary McFarland Orchestra. The album was arranged and conducted by Gary McFarland and produced by Creed Taylor for Verve Records. This was Getz's second bossa nova album for Verve following Jazz Samba, his very successful collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd.

"Once I Loved" is a bossa nova and jazz standard song composed in 1960 by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes. Words in English were later added by Ray Gilbert. In a few early cases, the song was also known as, a translation into English of the original Portuguese title.

"Só Danço Samba" is a bossa nova song composed in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. English lyrics were later written by Norman Gimbel. On occasion, it has also been known as "Jazz Samba" and "I Only Dance Samba", an English translation of the original Portuguese title.

"Vivo Sonhando" is a bossa nova song from 1962 with words and music by Antônio Carlos Jobim. English lyrics were added later by Gene Lees.


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