February 27, 2021

Joao Gilberto, the eccentric genius who illuminated the world with bossa nova


Joao Gilberto was an eccentric genius who illuminated the world with bossa nova, but his eternal gift was marred by the bitter taste of a family dispute, millionaire debts and various judicial processes that obscured his last years of life.

Born in Juazeiro in 1931, the musician died on Saturday at the age of 88 and he did so after writing the musical genre that shaped the identity of Brazil and influenced so many other generations of artists.

Son of merchants, Joao Gilberto moved in the 50s to Rio de Janeiro, a city in full cultural effervescence and where he paved the way for the emergence of bossa nova.

It was July 10, 1958, shortly after Brazil won its first world football title in Sweden, when Joao Gilberto entered the Odeon studio to record a song of a few minutes that, according to historians, became a framework in the Brazilian culture and music.

The recording of the vinyl in 78 rpm of a compact that included on the one hand "Chega de Saudade", samba composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and the poet and diplomat Vinicius de Moraes, and on the other "Bim Bom", is considered as the framework initial of the bossa nova because it allowed that the genre that until then was known in a few nocturnal houses of Rio de Janeiro could be taken to all Brazil and the world.

Father of three children, his friends say that Joao Gilberto was the owner of an introverted character and in the artistic field he was obsessed with perfection, although his personal life was far from that.

"His struggle was noble, he tried to maintain his dignity by losing his sovereignty," said his son Marcelo on Saturday after confirming his death on social networks.

His words were a veiled reference to the last years of his father's life, which were marked by a tough family dispute after his daughter Bebel Gilberto, also a singer, requested that he be declared legally disqualified in claiming that he was in a advanced age, which deprived him of autonomy for the administration of his finances.

Burnt down by debt, in 2018 he was forced to leave his apartment in the Leblon neighborhood, a well-off area of ​​the south zone of Rio de Janeiro, and lived in a borrowed house.

After a decade without concerts, the financial and personal problems of Joao Gilberto gained ground in the media and eclipsed the masterpiece of one of the creators of bossa nova.

One of the latest news about the composer was this year, when the Rio de Janeiro court issued a ruling favorable to the singer and determined that Universal would pay the guitarist the royalties for the sale of records that he owed him since 1964, as well as a payment for moral damages.

Joao Gilberto left 13 studio albums and 4 studio albums: "It's all there, the man behind these wonders did not need to appear" at concerts, said Saturday Ruy Castro, author of the book on bossa nova "Chega de Saudade" , in an article published by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

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