Astrud Gilberto, the bossa nova singer known for her instantly recognisable recording of “The Girl From Ipanema”, has died at the age of 83.
Gilberto’s son, Marcelo, confirmed to The Independent that she died on 5 June. The cause of her death was not disclosed.
Born Astrud Evangelina Weinert in Salvador, Bahia, on 29 March 1940, Gilberto recorded 16 studio albums and two live records over the course of her career, which began in the Sixties.
Gilberto’s version of “Garota de Ipanema” – originally composed in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes – happened by complete coincidence. Recorded in English under the title “The Girl from Ipanema” by the American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto on 18 March 1963, the song was inspired by Jobim and de Moraes’s lust for Heloísa Pinheiro, the teenage girl who used to walk past their local bar near Ipanema beach.
The A&R engineer Phil Ramone, who was overseeing recording in New York in 1962, said Astrud Gilberto was the one who offered to sing on the track, after it was mooted that João, whom she had married in 1959, perform the lyrics translated from Portuguese to English by Norman Gimbel.
“Astrud was in the control room when Norm came in with the English lyrics,” Ramone told JazzWax in 2010. “Producer Creed Taylor said he wanted to get the song done right away and looked around the room. Astrud volunteered, saying she could sing in English. Creed said, ‘Great.’ Astrud wasn’t a professional singer, but she was the only victim sitting there that night.”
The track went on to be a global hit, selling more than five million copies worldwide and boosting the profile of bossa nova music internationally.
Gilberto performed on two songs on the 1964 album Getz/Gilberto, with her vocals for “The Girl from Ipanema” earning her a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Performance by a female. The song itself won a Grammy for Song of the Year.
Speaking to The Independent last year, Marcelo – who, along with half-brother Gregory, performed and recorded with Gilberto – claimed that Gilberto struggled with the objectification she received from the press, and was poorly credited and remunerated for her work throughout her life. Her work on “The Girl from Ipanema” earned her just $120 in session fees.
It is also alleged that she did not receive full payments for her albums Now and That Girl from Ipanema, both released in the Seventies: “She re-recorded a disco version of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ on the latter album, marking the second instance she would record the song, and never be paid for it,” Marcelo claimed.
“She believed in people and was trusting. They took advantage of her good nature, trust and desire to make music.”
Her son also asserts that her reputation in Brazil never reflected her massive contribution to the country’s music scene. She once stated that she was “very hurt” by the attitude of the Brazilian media.
“Brazil turned its back on her,” said Marcelo. “She achieved fame abroad at a time when this was considered treasonous by the press.”
After a concert in 1965, Gilberto never performed in her native country again.
Writing on Instagram, Gilberto’s granddaughter, Sofia, also a musician, said, “My grandma Astrud Gilberto made this song for me, it’s called ‘Linda Sofia’. She even wanted my name to be Linda Sofia!”
She continued: “Life is beautiful, as the song says, but I’m here to bring you the sad news that my grandmother became a star today, and is next to my grandfather João Gilberto.
“Astrud was the true girl who took bossa nova from Ipanema to the world,” she added. “She was a pioneer and the best. At the age of 22, she gave voice to the English version of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ and gained international fame.
“The song, a bossa nova anthem, became the second most played in the world mainly because of her. I love and will love Astrud forever and she was the face and voice of bossa nova in most parts of the planet. Astrud will forever be in our hearts, and right now we have to celebrate Astrud.”
Paul Ricci, a New York-based guitarist who collaborated with Gilberto, paid tribute as he shared the news of her death with his followers
“I just got word from [Gilberto’s] son Marcelo that we have lost Astrud Gilberto,” he wrote. “He asked for this to be posted.
“She was an important part of ALL that is Brazilian music in the world and she changed many lives with her energy. RIP from ‘the chief’, as she called me. Thanks AG.”
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