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Astrud Gilberto, singer of ‘The Girl from Ipanema,’ dead at 83
NEW YORK (AP) — Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian singer, songwriter and entertainer whose off-hand, English-language cameo on “The Girl from Ipanema” made her a worldwide voice of bossa nova, has died at age 83.
Musician Paul Ricci, a family friend, confirmed that she died Monday. He did not provide additional details.
Born in Salvador, Bahia and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Gilberto became an overnight, unexpected superstar in 1964, thanks to knowing just enough English to be recruited by the makers of “Getz/Gilberto,” the classic bossa nova album featuring saxophonist Stan Getz and her then-husband, singer-songwriter-guitarist Joao Gilberto.
“The Girl from Ipanema,” the wistful ballad written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, was already a hit in South America. But “Getz/Gilberto” producer Creed Taylor and others thought they could expand the record’s appeal by including both Portuguese and English language vocals. In a 2002 interview with friends posted on her web site www.astrudgilberto.com, Astrud Gilberto remembered her husband saying he had a surprise for her at the recording studio.
“I begged him to tell me what it was, but he adamantly refused, and would just say: ‘Wait and see …’ Later on, while rehearsing with Stan, as they were in the midst of going over the song ‘The Girl from Ipanema,’ Joao casually asked me to join in, and sing a chorus in English, after he had just sung the first chorus in Portuguese. So, I did just that,” she explained.
“When we were finished performing the song, Joao turned to Stan, and said something like: “Tomorrow Astrud sing on record… What do you think?” Stan was very receptive, in fact very enthusiastic; he said it was a great idea. The rest, of course, as one would say, ‘is history.’”
Astrud Gilberto sings “The Girl from Ipanema” in a light, affectless style that influenced Sade and Suzanne Vega among others, as if she had already moved on to other matters. But her words, translated from the Portuguese by Norman Gimbel, would be remembered like few others from the era.
Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes
Each one she passes goes, “Ah”
“Getz/Gilberto” sold more than 2 million copies and “The Girl from Ipanema,” released as a single with Astrud Gilberto the only vocalist, became an all-time standard, often ranked just behind “Yesterday” as the most covered song in modern times. “The Girl from Ipanema” won a Grammy in 1965 for record of the year and Gilberto received nominations for best new artist and best vocal performance. The poised, dark-haired singer was so closely associated with “The Girl from Ipanema” that some assumed she was the inspiration; de Moraes had written the lyrics about a Brazilian teenager, Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto.
Over the next few years, Gilberto toured with Getz among others and released eight albums (with songs in English and Portuguese), among them “The Astrud Gilberto Album,” “Beach Samba” and “The Shadow of Your Smile.” But after 1969, she made just seven more albums and by 2002 had essentially retired from the business and stopped giving interviews, dedicating her latter years to animal rights activism and a career in the visual arts. She would allege that she received no money for “The Girl from Ipanema” and that Taylor and Getz (who would refer to her as “just a housewife”) took undue credit for “discovering” her. She also felt estranged from her native country, alleging she was treated dismissively by the press, and rarely performed there after she became a star.
“Isn’t there an ancient proverb to the effect that ‘No one is a prophet in his own land’”? she said in 2002. ”I have no qualms with Brazilians, and I enjoy myself very much when I go to Brazil. Of course, I go there as an incognito visitor, and not as a performer.”
Astrud Weinert was the youngest of three sisters, born into a family both musical and at ease with foreign languages: Her mother was a singer and violinist, her father a linguistics professor. By her teens, she was among a circle of musical friends and had met Joao Gilberto, a rising star in Rio’s emerging bossa nova scene.
“After I got together with Joao, the clan grew larger, to include ‘older’ folks such as Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Morais, Bene Nunes, Luis Bonfa and Joao Donato, and of course, their respective ‘other halves,” she recalled. “Joao Gilberto and I used to sing duets, or he would accompany me on guitar. Friends would always request that I sing at these gatherings, as well as at our own home when they would come to visit us.”
She was married twice and had two sons, Joao Marcelo Gilberto and Gregory Lasorsa, both of whom would work with her. Well after her commercial peak, she remained a popular live act, her singing becoming warmer and jazzier as she sang both covers and original material. She also had some notable moments as a recording artist, whether backed by trumpeter Chet Baker on “Fly Me to the Moon” or crooning with George Michael on the bossa nova standard “Desafinado.” In 2008, she received a Latin Grammy for lifetime achievement.
“I have been labeled by an occasional frustrated journalist as ‘a recluse.’ The dictionary clearly defines recluse as ‘a person who withdraws from the world to live in seclusion and often in solitude.’ Why should anybody assume that just because an artist chooses not to give interviews, he/she is a recluse?” she said in 2002.
“I firmly believe that any artist who becomes famous through their work — be it music, motion pictures or any other — does not have any moral obligation to satisfy the curiosity of journalists, fans or any members of the public about their private lives, or anything else that does not have any direct reflection on their work. My work, whether perceived as good, bad, or indifferent, speaks for itself.”
Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
Cynthia Weil, Grammy winning lyricist who teamed husband Barry Mann, dead at 82
NEW YORK (AP) — Cynthia Weil, a Grammy-winning lyricist of notable range and endurance who enjoyed a decades-long partnership with husband Barry Mann and helped write “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Walking in the Rain” and dozens of other hits, has died at age 82.
Her death was confirmed Friday by Interdependence Public Relations, which represents Mann’s daughter, Dr. Jenn Mann. A spokesperson did not immediately have further details.
Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, married in 1961, were one of popular music’s most successful teams, part of a remarkable ensemble recruited by impresarios Don Kirshner and Al Nevins and based in Manhattan’s Brill Building neighborhood, a few blocks from Times Square. With such hit-making combinations as Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the Brill Building song factory turned out many of the biggest singles of the ’60s and beyond.
Weil and Mann were key collaborators with producer Phil Spector on songs for the Ronettes (“Walking in the Rain”), the Crystals (“He’s Sure the Boy I Love”) and other performers, and also provided hits for everyone from Dolly Parton to Hanson. “Don’t Know Much,” a Linda Ronstadt-Aaron Neville duet they helped write, was a top 5 hit that won a best pop performance Grammy in 1990.
Their most famous song, a work of history overall, was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” an anthem of “blue-eyed soul” produced by Spector as if scoring a tragedy and sung with desperate fury by the Righteous Brothers. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” topped the charts in 1965 and was covered by numerous other artists. According to Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), no other song was played more on radio and television in the 20th century.
But when Weil and Mann first played “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers, the response from singers Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield was “dead silence.”
“Bill said, ‘Sounds good for The Everly Brothers not the Righteous Brothers,'” she told Parade magazine in 2015. “We thought ‘Oh, God.’ Then Bobby said, ‘What am I supposed to do while the big guy’s singing?’ and Phil (Spector) said “You can go to the bank.'”
While many of Weil’s peers struggled once the Beatles caught on, she continued to make hits, sometimes with Mann, or with such partners as Michael Masser, David Foster and John Williams, with whom she wrote “For Always” for the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” Mann helped write Parton’s pop breakthrough “Here You Come Again”; the Peabo Bryson ballad “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again”; James Ingram’s “Just Once”; the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy”; and Lionel Richie’s “Running With the Night.” In 1997, she was in the top 10 again with Hanson’s “I Will Come to You.”
“When they are successful, songs are like little novels. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. You feel what the person is feeling who’s singing it and it paints a picture of the human condition,” Weil, who eventually published the novel “I’m Glad I Did,” told Parade.
Her talents reached well beyond love ballads. She and Mann wrote one of rock’s first anti-drug songs, “Kicks,” a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966. She also had a knack for lyrics about ambition and aspiration, such as “On Broadway” and its unforgettable opening line, “They say the neon lights are bright/on Broadway.” The Animals had a hit with her tale of working class frustration, “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place.” The Crystals’ “Uptown” was a 1961 hit that touched upon race and class in ways not often heard in rock’s early years.
Downtown he’s just one of a million guys
He don’t get no breaks
And he takes all they got to give
‘Cause he’s got to live
But then he comes uptown
Where he can hold his head up high
Uptown he knows that I am standing by
Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, with King introducing them at the Rock Hall ceremony. Mann and Weil were supporting characters in the hit Broadway musical about King, “Beautiful,” which opened in 2013 and documented the intense friendship and rivalry between the two married couples. Mann and Weil’s musical “They Wrote That?” had a brief run in 2004.
Weil, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was born in New York City and studied piano and ballet as a child. She majored in theater at Sarah Lawrence University, but was encouraged by an agent to try songwriting. By age 20, she was working for the publishing company of “Guys and Dolls” composer Frank Loesser, and would soon meet her future husband.
“I was writing with a young Italian boy singer, the Frankie Avalon of his day, named Teddy Randazzo, when Barry came in to play him a song,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “I asked the receptionist, ‘Who is this guy? Does he have a girlfriend?’ She said, ‘He’s signed to a friend of mine, Don Kirshner, and if I call Donny, maybe you can go up there to show him your lyrics and meet Barry again.’ So that’s what she did. And that’s what I did. He didn’t have a chance.”
Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
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