Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, whose famous version of “The Girl from Ipanema” brought bossa nova to the top of the charts, has passed away. He was 83 years old.
His son Marcelo confirmed the news. Independent. He said Gilberto passed away on Monday, but did not disclose the cause of death. Colleague Paul Ricci also shared the news of Gilberto’s death on social media, describing him as “an important part of ALL Brazilian music”.
Gilberto was born Astrud Evangelina Weinert on March 29, 1940, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, before moving to Rio de Janeiro, where she grew up. In 1959 she married João Gilberto, a guitarist who pioneered the bossa nova (Portuguese for “new trend”) style and is sometimes even referred to as the “father of bossa nova”.
In 1963, Gilberto went with him to New York. There, he accompanied the guitarist to a recording session for an album with American saxophonist Stan Getz. The album is set to include a track called “Garota de Ipanema” or “Girl From Ipanema”, which refers to a beach neighborhood in Rio. When the producer of the session found out that Gilberto spoke English, she encouraged him to record an English version of the song, even though he completely lacked professional singing experience at the time.
Getz’s dreamy vocals hovering above his moving saxophone were a hit when his recording was released the following year, peaking at #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Gilberto also received a Grammy nomination for best female vocal performance for the song, and the record continues to sell over 1 million copies and claims a gold disc. However, as her star was rising, her relationship with her husband was deteriorating and the couple divorced in 1965.
Despite not having another big hit, “The Girl From Ipanema” is considered the most recorded popular song in music history after the Beatles’ “Yesterday”. Gilberto also went on to collect numerous awards, including the Latin Jazz USA lifetime achievement award in 1992, and was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame ten years later.