João Gilberto, Musician and Bossa Nova Pioneer, Dies at 88

Brazilian singer and guitarist is best known for his work on the jazz standard “The Girl From Ipanema”

Last Updated: July 6, 2019 @ 3:06 PM

Brazilian composer and singer João Gilberto has died in Rio de Janeiro, his son announced on Saturday. He was 88.

“My father has passed,” his son Marcelo Gilberto wrote on Twitter Saturday. “His fight was noble, he tried to maintain dignity in light of losing his sovereignty. I thank my family (my side of the family) for being there for him, and Gustavo for being a true friend to us, and caring for him as one of us. Lastly, I’d like to thank Maria do ceu for being by his side until the end. She was his true friend, and companion.”

Gilberto was known as one of the fathers of the bossa nova genre and for performing the 1962 jazz song “The Girl From Ipanema,” which went on to become a worldwide pop music standard.

At 14, Gilberto got his first guitar as a gift from his grandfather and recorded his first songs in Brazil as 78-rpm singles in the ’50s. His personal style for voice and guitar was forged in a little bathroom, thanks to its acoustics), and the bossa nova was born.

His first creation was a song titled “Bim-Bom” as he watched laundresses balance baskets of clothing on their heads as they traveled to and from Sao Francisco River.

Several North American jazz musicians took to the new genre and many picked it up. In 1962, he played guitar as his wife, Astrud, sang an English version of the Brazilian song “The Girl From Ipanema.” Artists like Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, the Supremes and even The Muppets have since performed their unique versions of the song.

On May 17, 2017, Gilberto received an honorary doctorate in music from Columbia University, but did not attend the ceremony.

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