Astrud Gilberto, whose dreamy interpretation of The Girl from Ipanema became the most popular version of the song, has died aged 83.
Paul Ricci, a collaborator with Gilberto, confirmed the news on social media, writing that he had been asked to announce it by Gilberto’s son Marcelo. “She was an important part of ALL that is Brazilian music in the world and she changed many lives with her energy,” he added.
Born in 1940 in the Brazilian state of Bahia and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Astrud Weinert married musician João Gilberto in 1959. In 1963, she accompanied him on a trip to New York where he would record with jazz artist Stan Getz and fellow Brazilian bossa nova star Antônio Carlos Jobim. The session’s producer wanted an English-language singer to help The Girl from Ipanema cross over to a US audience, and Astrud – who had no previous recording experience – was the only person who could speak it.
The original version was a duet with her husband – Astrud wasn’t even credited on the recording, was cut out of the royalties and received only a small session musician’s fee. But after The Girl from Ipanema was re-edited without João’s Brazilian-language vocals as a solo single, it became a huge hit in 1964, reaching the US Top 5 and the UK Top 30. It won the Grammy award for song of the year, and Gilberto was also nominated for best vocal performance by a female. That year, she and João divorced, and she toured the US with Getz and his band, an experience she described later as “very difficult times … being in the midst of a separation and dealing with the responsibilities of being a single mother and a brand-new demanding career”.
The Girl from Ipanema would be her only major hit – though it crept back into the UK chart in 1984 as bossa nova flourished again, popularised by Everything But the Girl, Sade and others – but she retained a fandom for a series of subsequent solo albums on the jazz label Verve, beginning with 1965’s The Astrud Gilberto Album. She also recorded with Chet Baker, and continued to tour until 2002. In 2008 she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Latin Grammys.
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