RIO DE JANEIRO – Hundreds of Brazilians came to Rio de Janeiro’s Theatro Municipal on Monday to pay final respects to musical icon Joao Gilberto, regarded as the father of the bossa nova.
Gilberto, 88, died on Saturday at his home in Rio de Janeiro.
“I want for Brazil to observe silence to listen to Joao Gilberto. For Brazilians to listen more to Joao Gilberto,” the musician’s widow, Maria do Ceu Harris, said at the wake.
Also present at the theater were prominent figures from the worlds of art and entertainment, including actresses Gloria Pires and Marieta Severo and singers Teresa Cristina and Adriana Calcanhoto.
“We have lost a giant. A musician who influenced many of the people who have influenced me – in everything, from the guitar tone to the more relaxed way of singing. He is in everything,” Cristina told reporters.
She went on to call his death “emblematic” of a “very difficult year for Brazil, with so many ignorant people in power,” evidently referring to the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
Gilberto’s music represented “beauty, the opposite of what’s happening in Brazil today,” Cristina said.
Calcanhoto, for her part, said that she and “an entire generation” of musical artists owed their careers to Gilberto’s innovations.
“His legacy is endless,” she said. “I have to thank Joao for all he left us and I hope he continues inspiring many generations.”
Gilberto, who is to be laid to rest at a cemetery in the Rio de Janeiro suburb of Niteroi, defined the bossa nova genre in three seminal albums recorded over the period 1958-1961: “Chega de Saudade,” “O Amor, O Sorriso e a Flor” and “Joao Gilberto.”
Performing compositions by the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Donato and Vinicius de Moraes, Gilberto crafted a new sound based on syncopated guitar and a vibrato-less approach to singing that departed dramatically from the then-dominant style.
Bossa nova made a big impact in the United States and Gilberto performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He also won a Grammy Award for a 1964 album with jazz saxophonist Stan Getz that included the “The Girl From Ipanema.”
Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque are numbered among Joao Gilberto’s musical disciples.
The father of three children was famously introverted and had a reputation for being a perfectionist in the recording studio.
His final years were marred by disputes with family members, financial woes and court battles with recording labels.