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Joao Gilberto – The Father of Bossa Nova

Profile of Brazilian Artist and Bossa Nova Founder Joao Gilberto


Photo Courtesy Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Joao Gilberto

Photo Courtesy Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Joao Gilberto, usually known as "The Father of Bossa Nova," is one of the greatest Brazilian artists in history. Thanks to the innovative guitar playing style he introduced back in 1959 with the single "Chega De Saudade," Joao Gilberto not only shaped Bossa Nova but also exposed Brazilian music to a worldwide audience.

Although most of the famous Bossa Nova songs were written by other artists like Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto was the one responsible for adding the melody that defined the whole Bossa Nova movement. One of his most outstanding works is the collaboration album Getz/Gilberto, which he produced with the legendary Jazz artist Stan Getz.

Trivia Facts

  • Joao Gilberto was born in 1931 in the city of Juazeiro, Bahia.
  • At age 14, Joao Gilberto got his first guitar.
  • Joao Gilberto's first wife was the Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto. After divorcing her, he got married with the singer Miucha, a sister of the famous Brazilian artist Chico Buarque de Hollanda.
  • The contemporary Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto is no other than Joao Gilberto's daughter.
  • Joao Gilberto has built a reputation for being extremely picky and perfectionist. In fact, in several occasions he has abandoned presentations from places with bad acoustic or noisy crowds.

Early Days

Joao Gilberto grew up with different musical influences. He used to enjoy listening to songs from different Brazilian and international artists like Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Dorival Caymmi and Dalva de Oliveira.

When Joao Gilberto was 18, he moved to the city of Salvador before hitting for a musical career in Rio de Janeiro. After a false start with the local band Garotos da Lua and years defined by little success moving around different parts of the country, Joao Gilberto went back to Rio in 1956 where he reestablish his friendship with Antonio Carlos Jobim.

While Jobim was already working as a full time musician for Odeon Records, Joao Gilberto was consolidating a new guitar playing style that immediately captured Jobim. The visionary Jobim wanted to introduced that style into the market and this idea ended up with the recording of "Chega De Saudade."

"Chega De Saudade"

Joao Gilberto's version of the single "Chega De Saudade" is considered the piece that started the whole Bossa Nova movement. Because of this, "Chega De Saudade" is considered one of the most influential Brazilian songs ever produced. This track is included in the 1959 album with the same name, which is also considered by many the first Bossa Nova album in history.

Joao Gilberto brought a new guitar playing style that treated the instrument as a single element serving percussion and melodic purposes. He incorporated this new style into the single "Chega De Saudade" changing forever the sounds of Brazilian music. The song was translated into English under the title "No More Blues" and in the year 2000 the original 1959 version became a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto

In 1964, Joao Gilberto went to the United States to record an album with the famous Jazz musician and saxophone player Stan Getz. This collaboration work, which included the participation of the famous Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, was one of the albums that consolidated Bossa Nova as a worldwide phenomenon.

The album Getz/Gilberto is still regarded as one of the most important points of reference regarding Bossa Nova music. This work included hit song such as "The Girl From Ipanema," "Doralice," "Desafinado" and "Vivo Sonhando." Getz/Gilberto sold more than one million copies around the world and thanks to it "The Girl From Ipanema" became one of the most recorded songs in history.

Joao Gilberto remained in North America between 1962 and 1980. After going back to Brazil he has continued his musical production with works like Joao, Voz E Violao and In Tokyo, a 2004 album recorded during a concert in the Japanese capital. In Tokyo was also an album that celebrated the 40th anniversary of the album Getz/Gilberto.

Best Joao Gilberto Songs

The following singles are classic songs from the Joao Gilberto repertoire. Although he did not write all these tracks, they became famous under his voice and guitar. From "Chega de Saudade" to his own version of "S' Wonderful," these are some of the best Joao Gilberto songs:

Suggested Joao Gilberto Albums

  • Getz/Gilberto
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  • Amoroso/Brasil
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  • In Tokyo
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