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João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira, known as João Gilberto (Portuguese: [ˈʒoɐ̃w ʒiwˈbɛʁtu];[1] born June 10, 1931), is a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He pioneered the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s.

João Gilberto
João Gilberto.jpg
Gilberto in 2006
Background information
Birth nameJoão Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira
Born (1931-06-10) June 10, 1931 (age 87)
Juazeiro, Bahia, Brazil
GenresBossa nova, samba, Latin jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, singing
Years active1950–present



João Gilberto was born in Juazeiro, Bahia, Brazil. From early on, music became an essential part of his life. When he was 14, his grandfather bought him his first guitar. During high school, João teamed up with some of his classmates to form a small band. As the bandleader, Gilberto was influenced by Brazilian popular songs, American jazz, and even some opera, among other genres. After trying his luck as a radio singer in Salvador, the young Gilberto was recruited in 1950 as lead voice of the vocal quintet Garotos da Lua (Moon Boys) and moved to Rio de Janeiro. A year and a half later, the group dismissed him for his lack of discipline, as he would often show up late to rehearsals, or not at all.

Gilberto's first recordings were released in Brazil as two-song 78-rpm singles between 1951 and 1959. In the 1960s Brazilian singles evolved to the "double compact" format, and João would release some EPs in this new format, which carried four songs on a 45-rpm record.

For seven years, Gilberto's career was at a low ebb. He rarely had any work, depended on his friends for living quarters, and lapsed into chronic depression. Eventually, in 1955, Luiz Telles, leader of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders, pulled Gilberto from that rut, taking him to the provincial town of Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil, where he blossomed musically. He then spent eight months with his sister in Diamantina, Minas Gerais,[2] where he sequestered himself, playing day and night in a little bathroom (to take advantage of its acoustics) and forging a personal style for voice and guitar that would become known as bossa nova. Gilberto wrote the first bossa nova song, titled "Bim-Bom", as he watched passing laundresses on the banks of the São Francisco River balance loads of clothing on their heads.

Soon after, Gilberto's father, upset by his son's bizarre singing style and refusal to take 'normal' work, had him committed to a mental hospital. In a psychological interview there, Gilberto stared out of the window and remarked "Look at the wind depilating the trees." The psychologist replied "but trees have no hair, João", to which Gilberto responded: "and there are people who have no poetry." He was released after a week. The next year (1956), he returned to Rio and struck up old acquaintances, most significantly with Antônio Carlos Jobim, who was by then working as a composer, producer, and arranger with Odeon Records. Jobim was impressed with Gilberto's new style of guitar playing and set about finding a suitable song to pitch the style to Odeon management.

Bossa nova ("new style") is a refined version of samba, de-emphasizing the rhythmic percussion and enriching the melodic and harmonic content. Instead of traditional Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments, Gilberto often eschews all accompaniment except guitar, which he uses in a percussive as well as a harmonic role, incorporating the different samba parts — such as the tamborim and surdo — from a full batucada band. The singing style he developed is economical, almost whispering, and without vibrato. He creates tempo tension by singing ahead or behind the beat.

This style, which Gilberto introduced in 1957, created a sensation in the musical circles of Rio's Zona Sul, and many young guitarists sought to imitate it. It was first recorded in 1958 in "Chega de Saudade", a song by Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. Gilberto had previously accompanied singer Elizeth Cardoso on guitar in a recording of this same song — and though he explained to her his vision for the new style, Cardoso would have none of it and sung it the traditional way. Shortly afterwards, he made his own debut single of the song, in the new style, followed by the 1959 LP Chega de Saudade. The song turned into a hit, launching Gilberto's career and the bossa nova craze. Besides a number of Jobim compositions, the album featured older sambas and popular songs from the 1940s and 1950s, all performed in Gilberto's distinctive style. This album was followed by two more, in 1960 and 1961, by which time the singer featured new songs by a younger generation of performer/composers such as Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal.

By 1962, bossa nova had been embraced by North American jazz musicians, such as Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd, and Stan Getz, who invited Gilberto and Jobim to collaborate on what became one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, Getz/Gilberto. Through this album, Gilberto's then wife Astrud — who had never sung professionally prior to this recording session[3]—became an international star, and the Jobim/de Moraes composition "The Girl from Ipanema" became a worldwide pop music standard.

Gilberto lived in the United States from 1962 until 1969, when he moved to Mexico for two years. There, he recorded João Gilberto en México (1970). João Gilberto (also known as 'the White Album' (1973), had a hypnotic minimalist execution, limited to the singer, his guitar, and Sonny Carr on drums. In 1976 came the release of The Best of Two Worlds, a reunion with Stan Getz, featuring singer Miúcha, (sister of Chico Buarque), who had become Gilberto's second wife in April 1965. Amoroso (1977) backed Gilberto with the lush string orchestration of Claus Ogerman, who had provided a similar sound to Jobim's instrumental recordings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As with all of Gilberto's previous albums, this one consisted mostly of Jobim compositions, mixed with older sambas and an occasional North American standard from the 1940s.

Gilberto returned to Brazil in 1980, and the following year released Brasil, with guests Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, who in the late 1960s had founded the Tropicalia movement, a fusion of Brazilian popular music with foreign pop. The 1991 release João, with orchestrations by Clare Fischer, was unusual for its lack of even a single Jobim composition, instead featuring songs in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, plus old sambas and the solitary contemporary song "Sampa" (Caetano Veloso). Also released in 1991 was the album Canto do Pajé by Veloso's sister Maria Bethânia, on which Bethânia and Gilberto sung an intimate medley of "Maria" (Ary Barroso/Luiz Peixoto) and "Linda Flor"' (Henrique Vogeler/Luiz Peixoto/Marques Pôrto), accompanied solely by his guitar. João Voz e Violão (2000) was an homage to the music of Gilberto's youth, as well as a nod to producer Caetano Veloso.

Evenly interspersed with these studio recordings have been the live recordings Live in Montreux; João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira; Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar; Live at Umbria Jazz; and Live in Tokyo.

While all of Gilberto's albums since Getz/Gilberto have been released on CD, the first three domestic albums were released in 1988 by EMI on a single CD entitled The Legendary João Gilberto: The Original Bossa Nova Recordings (1958–1961). The disc also included three tracks from the singer's 1959 Orfeu Negro EP: "Manhã de Carnaval", "O Nosso Amor", and "A felicidade", the latter two merged into a single medley track to fit within the recording time of a CD. After its release, Gilberto successfully sued to have the title removed from sale as an unauthorized release of his artistic work.

Gilberto has long had a reputation as an eccentric artist who values his privacy. He lives in an apartment in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, and typically shuns interviews and crowds. Known for his demanding acoustic and noise-control standards, he has sometimes walked out on his performances, citing such reasons as poor sound quality or audience distractions. On several occasions, he asked that the air conditioning be turned off at concert venues. During a recording session of the song "Rosa Morena", he insisted on 28 takes to get the pronunciation of the o in "Rosa" just right.[4] Nonetheless, despite his high acoustic standards, he skipped a contractually required sound check prior to a July 2003 performance at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles. This negligence (and the ensuing sound fiasco) prompted the audience to stream from the venue before the concert ended.[5]

In 1997, Gilberto sued record label EMI over their reissue of several of his early works, which he contended had been poorly remastered. According to The New York Times, "A statement by his lawyer at the time declared that the reissues contained sound effects that 'did not pertain to the original recordings, banalizing the work of a great artist." Following the incident, EMI ceased production of the albums in question, and, as of 2008, the lawsuit was yet to reach a decision.[6]

In 2000, Gilberto won the nomination for the Best World Music Album category in the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards for his work in the album João Voz E Violão.[7]

In 2011, he was sued and evicted from an apartment in Leblon by his landlord, Countess Georgina Brandolini d'Adda.[8][9]

On May 17, 2017, Gilberto received an honorary doctorate in music from Columbia University though he himself did not attend the commencement ceremony.[10]

It was reported in December 2017 that Bebel Gilberto (Isabel), João's daughter through his marriage to Miúcha, was seeking control of his financial affairs because of his declining mental state and heavy debt.[11]


Gilberto in concert, 1996

-João Gilberto's first five records released from 1951-1958 were all 78 rpm single editions.

-The album João Gilberto released in 1970 is the same version as João Gilberto en Mexico in the same year but by different record companies.

-Live in Montreux from 1987 is the same version as the one released in 1986. The version in 1986 was released in Brasil whereas the 1987 one was released in USA. Both were recorded live.

Selected compositionsEdit

  • "Bim bom" (generally considered as the first bossa nova song)
  • "Hô-bá-lá-lá"
  • "Um Abraço no Bonfá"
  • "Undiú"
  • "Valsa (Bebel) (Como são lindos os Youguis)"
  • "Você esteve com meu bem?"


  1. ^ "How to pronounce João Gilberto". Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  2. ^ "Google Tradutor". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  3. ^ Astrud Gilberto official website - interview Archived 2008-09-18 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Chediak, Almir (1990). Bossa nova (in Portuguese). Irmãos Vitale. ISBN 9788585426347.
  5. ^ Heckman, Don (2003-07-25). "Primed for perfection but never reached". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  6. ^ Ratliff, Ben (15 June 2008). "João Gilberto's Pioneering Bossa Nova Records Are Caught In a Legal Limbo". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Awards". 30 April 2017. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  8. ^ "EGO - NOTÍCIAS - João Gilberto devolve apartamento a condessa, diz jornal".
  9. ^
  10. ^ "João Gilberto to Receive Honorary Doctorate". Columbia University Department of Music. 12 April 2017. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  11. ^ "El drama de Joao Gilberto, uno de los padres de la bossa nova" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-02-08.


External linksEdit