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The Blog from Ipanema

Long before a song could be referred to as an “internet sensation” or having “gone viral”, there was a melody so catchy that it almost single-handedly started the bossa nova revolution in pop music.  Recorded by the likes of Lou Rawls, Nat King Cole, Cher, Amy Winehouse, and Frank Sinatra, “The Girl from Ipanema” has a story that is almost as fascinating as the craze that it created.

In the late 1950’s, while on a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of Brazil, jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd gathered music (both recorded and in print) and returned to the United States. Much of the music that he brought back was bossa nova—a sort of combination of Brazilian samba and jazz harmonies.  After sharing this new sound with jazz saxophonist Stan Getz and producer Creed Taylor, Getz and Byrd collaborated on one of the most wildly popular crossover albums Jazz Samba.  Released in 1962, Jazz Samba was only the beginning.

Charlie Byrd, half-length portrait, seated, facing left holding guitar; man with paper on left.

Charlie Byrd, half-length portrait, seated, facing left holding guitar; man with paper on left. Photographic print, 1950-1970. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c15527

Around that same year, composer Antônio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes, fellow Brazilians, began collaborating on a musical comedy with the working title Blimp.  The plot was going to revolve around a Martian who arrives in Rio at the height of Carnaval.  Almost immediately upon arriving on Earth, the Martian becomes fascinated with a woman, and the song describing this in the story was to be called “Menina que passa” (“The Girl Who Passes By”).  While the story of Blimp never made it past the drafting stage, the song “Garota de Ipanema” (“The Girl from Ipanema”) was born.

In 1963, Jobim and singing star João Gilberto were set to collaborate with Stan Getz for the album Getz/Gilberto, which was to be released the following year.  One of the songs that they decided to record was “The Girl from Ipanema.”  There was concern about releasing the song with all of the verses sung in Portuguese, so the producers decided to also have the verses sung in English.  While João Gilberto’s English wasn’t considered passable enough for the recording, his wife Astrud was fluent.  Even though she was not a trained singer, she was given the opportunity to record an English verse of the song.  “The Girl from Ipanema”, as recorded by Stan Getz, Astrud, and João Gilberto, would go on to sell over two million copies and peak at number 5 on the charts—besting the Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

In the NLS Music collection, you can find many different recordings of “The Girl from Ipanema”.  Bill Brown has an instructional recording where you can learn the song on guitar (DBM02185), piano (DBM02905), rhythm and lead guitars (DBM02339), and bass guitar (DBM03349).  You can also find it in Braille on BARD for voice and piano in line by line and bar over bar format (BRM27335).

Who was the inspiration for this song?  Heloísa Pinheiro, who was later involved in a legal dispute with the estates of Jobim and Moraes after opening a clothing store in Brazil bearing the song’s name, was the original “Girl from Ipanema.”  Most recently, Pinheiro was featured on television’s The Amazing Race and America’s Next Top Model. While she was able to keep the song title as her store front, she never earned any compensation or royalties from “Ipanema.”

“The Girl from Ipanema” was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2004.

The William Gottlieb Collection at the Library of Congress contains many photographs that pertain to Latin jazz.

For more insight into the life and creativity of Stan Getz, you can stream a 1986 interview with him from the digital archives of the Library of Congress here.

Speaking of Latin Jazz, the National Library Service is sponsoring a very special performance by the José André Trio in Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on Thursday, November 7 at 8 p.m.  For more information about the free performance, including tickets, please click here.

To borrow any materials mentioned in this blog, you may access BARD or request a copy on digital cartridge by contacting the Music Section by phone at 1-800-424-8567, option 2, or e-mail [email protected].

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