Astrud Gilberto, Pioneering ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ Singer Dies Aged 83
Astrud Gilberto, the pioneering Brazilian singer, songwriter and entertainer whose gloriously sultry English-language version of the bossa nova classic, The Girl from Ipanema, made her a worldwide star, has died at age 83.
Musician Paul Ricci, a family friend, confirmed that she died Monday on Facebook. He did not provide additional details of her death.
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 trailblazing bossa nova album featuring saxophonist Stan Getz and her then-husband, singer-songwriter-guitarist João Gilberto.
The Girl from Ipanema, the wistful ballad written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius 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.
Astrud Gilberto sang The Girl from Ipanema in a light, affectless style that influenced Sade and Suzanne Vega among many others. But her words, translated from the Portuguese by Norman Gimbel, would be remembered like few others from the era.
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 The Beatles’ Yesterday as the most covered song in modern times. The song won a Grammy in 1965 for record of the year and Gilberto received nominations for best new artist and best vocal performance.
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.
Gilberto 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.
She was married twice and had two sons, João 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.