Jobim, Bossa Nova Giant,
Would’ve Been 90 Today
When Antonio Carlos Jobim was born, the stunning beaches of his hometown, Rio de Janeiro, were still nesting grounds to a variety of marine birds and wild life. Some of them would be celebrated later by Brazil’s greatest popular music composer, who’d be 90 today.
The architect of Bossa Nova, the 1960s movement that took the world by a quiet storm, Jobim’s forever linked to his Garota de Ipanema, the classic that became one the most performed songs ever, even as it seems now forever trapped in some sort of an elevator to oblivion.
Which is unfortunate, not just for his varied and profoundly Brazilian output, but also because, in its original João Gilberto and Stan Getz performance, it remains a delicate gem, all intricate harmonies and tender balance of its beat. (On Feb 2, Getz would’ve been 90 too.)
An accomplished musician both on acoustic guitar and piano, Jobim found in João‘s voice the superb phrasing to enhance his delicate melodies. Their musical partnership was not unlike that of Federico Fellini and Marcelo Mastroianni: a esthetic symbiosis, where both seem part of the same creative continuum.
It’s possible that João, now 85, may be still mourning, quietly as is his style, the sudden passing of his lifelong friend, in New York, Dec. 8, 1994. And so may be generations of artists, influenced and inspired by him, grieving his loss and the hole he’s left in Brazil’s culture.
For even as his extensive songbook is still a defining landmark for the rich musical tradition of his homeland, he’s much less regarded there today than his stature as a songwriter would’ve granted. Even today, it
* 50 Summers
* Multi-Note Samba
may not be easy to tune in any of his songs on Brazilian radio stations.
In these short-attention span times, the relevance of collective memory and the weight a society places on his standard-bearers, depends on constant refreshing, and efforts to preserve them. Popular culture is as good as the next trend, if nothing is done otherwise.
Jobim’s genius may still be part of every positive reference about Brazil’s culture. But less than 20 years from his passing, fresh traces of his work are more likely to be found in the art of international artists than of his fellow brasileiros. That is truly puzzling but some half-seriously think that the reason is obvious.
Although they were all born in the same country, few has the Portuguese word for ‘tone’ as a nickname. Plus, almost no one has, written on their very birth certificate, the term that defines nationality, as Antonio Carlos BRASILEIRO de Almeida Jobim did. No wonder some call him the inventor of Brazilian music. Happy Birthday, Tom.