João Gilberto in 2008
Photo: ARI VERSIANI/AFP/Getty Images
João Gilberto, Pioneer Of Brazilian Bossa Nova, Has Died At 88
The performer is widely regarded as one of the major artists behind bossa nova, whose name came from Portuguese slang for "new style," and with which he combined Brazilian samba with pop and jazz, according to The New York Times. The outlet points to his chill, jazzy sound as a major shift in the country's sound from the bigger bolero-style vocals that dominated their popular music since the '30s, beginning with "Chega de Saudade" in 1958.
"Chega de Saudade," composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, who finished the song after meeting the musician, inspired by his fresh approach to guitar rhythm, was first recorded by Brazilian singer Elizete Cardoso, with Gilberto on guitar. The news outlet writes that this recording "this was the first great example of bossa nova guitar style: syncopated, swinging, rendered in changeable patterns." In 1958, two more versions of the song were released, by vocal band Os Cariocas, also with Gilberto on guitar, and finally the most famous rendition, recorded by Gilberto, performing vocals and guitar himself.
In 1959, the innovative performer released his debut studio album, Chega de Saudade, featuring the groundbreaking song as the lead track. The album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2001, as well as the Latin GRAMMY Hall Of Fame the same year, with their inaugural class of honorees.
His music not only made waves and inspired artists in his home country, but abroad, especially in the U.S., as well. As the Times explains, GRAMMY-winning American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz's 1962 No. 1 album, Jazz Samba, which he recorded with guitarist Charlie Byrd, "was strongly influenced by Mr. Gilberto's recordings." Getz and Gilberto collaborated shortly after, releasing their GRAMMY-winning bossa nova album Getz/Gilberto in 1964. The collaboration not only took home Album Of The Year at the 7th GRAMMY Awards, but also earned Record Of The Year for its hit single "The Girl From Ipanema," which featured Gilberto's then-wife, Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto.
Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy and Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy, released a joint statement sharing appreciation for the legendary recording artists, on behalf of their respective organizations:
"João Gilberto was a multi-talented singer, songwriter and guitarist. An architect of bossa nova music in his native Brazil, João's innovative style and master musicianship helped turn the genre into a worldwide phenomenon. Maintaining an impressive career spanning several decades, he earned six GRAMMY nominations between 1964-2000, and, along with his musical partner Stan Getz, he took home the coveted Album Of The Year award for 1964's breakthrough album Getz/Gilberto. That milestone recording and his classic 'Chega De Saudade' have been inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. João will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends, and creative collaborators during this difficult time."
In the liner notes of Getz/Gilberto, the late singer/guitarist wrote a powerful message: "To understand and be understood is a kind of peace," according to the Los Angeles Times. He also wrote in the notes, that he found "great peace in real communication with another person." He released his final studio album in 2000, João Voz e Violão, produced by Caetano Veloso, a fellow GRAMMY-winning Brazilian singer/guitarist deeply influenced by him.
Veloso was among the many artists and fans that took to social media to pay to tribute to the late legend, writing (translated from Portuguese by Facebook), "João Gilberto was the greatest artist my soul came into contact with. Before I turned 18, I learned from him all about what I already knew and how to know everything that was to arise. With his voice and guitar, he remade the function of speech and the history of the instrument."
Other Brazilian performers, including the late singer/guitarist's daughter, GRAMMY-nominated singer Bebel Gilberto, and Latin GRAMMY and GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter/guitarist/politician Gilberto Gil, Brazil's former Minister of Culture, also mourned the community's loss—read their posts below.
Em Londres, Gil relembrou como foi impactado pela música do mestre João Gilberto em sua juventude em Salvador. E prestou uma linda homenagem cantando um trecho de "Desafinado" (+) pic.twitter.com/k2ZSGAGFaZ
— Gilberto Gil (@gilbertogil) July 7, 2019
The music world lost one of its most original and influential voices on Saturday with the passing of Joao Gilberto at the age of 88. Through his classic Verve recordings with Stan Getz and more, he introduced the world to the beauty of Bossa Nova. pic.twitter.com/qmE9uexdEi
— Verve Records (@VerveRecords) July 8, 2019