The Birth of Bossa Nova

Hear Five Classic Songs Below

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Joao Gilberto was one of the key bossa nova pioneers. i i

hide captionJoao Gilberto was one of the key bossa nova pioneers.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Joao Gilberto was one of the key bossa nova pioneers.

Joao Gilberto was one of the key bossa nova pioneers.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The summer of 1958 was the season of bossa nova. Fifty years ago, a movement of melody, harmony, lyrics, and rhythm sent a fresh wave of sound throughout Brazil. In the years to follow, a small group of idealistic musicians — including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Joao Gilberto, and a handful of others — would write some of the most enduring melodies in music history. Here are five songs from the magical era when the gentle sound of Brazil hypnotized the world.

The Birth of Bossa Nova

The Legendary Joao Gilberto: The Original Bossa Nova Recordings (1958 –1961)

Joao Gilberto

  • Album: Legendary João Gilberto
  • Song: Chega de Saudade

Bossa nova's premier historian, Ruy Castro, calls this song "the 1 minute and 59 seconds that changed everything." It was the first composition to reveal Joao Gilberto's "new beat on guitar," with the sophisticated harmonies of Antonio Carlos Jobim and the elegant lyrics of Vinicius de Moraes. Brazilian music would never be the same.

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  • "Chega de Saudade"
  • Album: Legendary João Gilberto
  • Artist: João Gilberto
  • Label: World Pacific
  • Released: 1958
 
Getz/Gilberto

Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto

  • Album: Getz/Gilberto [Bonus Tracks]
  • Song: Desafinado

Many historians believe that "Desafinado," co-written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendoca, was the first bossa nova song. It was originally written as a joke for the corny pop singer Ivon Cury, but then Joao Gilberto sang it earnestly, and it became a bossa nova manifesto.

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  • "Desafinado"
  • Album: Getz/Gilberto [Bonus Tracks]
  • Artist: Stan Getz/João Gilberto
  • Label: Impulse!
  • Released: 2008
 
Cover for Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

  • Album: Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Song: Girl from Ipanema

"Garota de Ipanema," or "The Girl from Ipanema," is the one bossa nova song everyone knows. Whether it's packaged for concert halls or elevators, every conceivable genre of music has adapted this irrepressible melody from Antonio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The song would introduce bossa nova to the world, for better and for worse.

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  • "Girl from Ipanema"
  • Album: Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Artist: Frank Sinatra
  • Label: Rhino/Ada
  • Released: 1967
 
Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac by Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie

  • Album: Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac
  • Song: Mas Que Nada

Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada" certainly qualifies as a timeless piece. Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 jump-started their careers with it. Mendes himself revisited the tune with will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas in 2006. In 1967, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie gave a spirited performance on his album Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac. Hear why Gillespie subtitled the tune "Pow, Pow, Pow."

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  • "Mas Que Nada"
  • Album: Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac
  • Artist: Dizzy Gillespie
  • Label: GRP
  • Released: 1967
 
Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina

Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina

  • Album: Elis & Tom [Bonus CD]
  • Song: Aguas de Marco

Brazil's most important composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, showcases his other greatest passion: ecology. Jobim spoke about the dangers of pollution and global warming before they became buzzwords. This minimalist song sounds even more relevant today.

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  • "Aguas de Marco"
  • Album: Elis & Tom
  • Artist: Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Label: Trama
  • Released: 2004
 

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