Joao Gilberto dead: Brazilian bossa nova legend dies, aged 88

‘All he wanted was to be with us and to play with his granddaughter,’ says musician’s daughter-in-law

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Saturday 06 July 2019 22:58
Gilberto performing in Sao Paulo in 2008
Gilberto performing in Sao Paulo in 2008

Brazilian musician and composer Joao Gilberto died at the age of 88 at his home in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, his relatives have confirmed.

The family did not disclose the cause of death, but on Facebook his son Marcelo Gilberto said “his fight was noble and he tried to maintain dignity”.

His daughter-in-law wrote: “Deep sadness. All he wanted was to be with us and to play with his granddaughter.”

Born in Bahia, a north-eastern Brazilian state, Gilberto began singing at 18. After moving to Rio, he released the record Chega de Saudade in 1959, which marked the beginning of the world-famous bossa nova music style.

His 1964 album Getz/Gilberto with America saxophone player Stan Getz sold millions of copies, won several Grammy awards and popularised the musical genre around the world.

Fans and fellow musicians began paying tribute after news of death broke on Saturday. “The great Joao Gilberto has left us. If you don’t know who he was, shame on you,” said Brazilian writer Fernando Duarte.

Actress Piper Perabo tweeted: “Joao Gilberto, a musician I loved and giant of Brazilian bossa nova music, died today. His collaboration with American saxophonist Stan Getz and the amazing voice of Astrud Gilberto on Getz/Gilberto is an album you can’t stop listening to on a summer night.”

In 2000, Gilberto won a Grammy for his album Joao Voz E Violao, and in 2017 he received an honorary doctorate in music from Columbia University.

Journalist and bossa nova scholar Ruy Castro called the death of Gilberto a “monumental” loss. “He managed to create a mystique about him abroad, being who he was and not even speaking English,” he told the Globo television station.

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“It was Joao Gilberto, the greatest genius of Brazilian music, who was the definitive influence on my music,” singer Gal Costa wrote on social media. “He will be missed but his legacy is very important to Brazil and to the world.”

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