Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian singer who took bossa nova to the top of the charts with her famous version of “The Girl from Ipanema,” has died. She was 83.
Her son, Marcelo, confirmed the news to The Independent. He said that Gilberto passed away on Monday but did not disclose a cause of her death. Her collaborator, Paul Ricci, also shared news of Gilberto’s death on social media, calling her “an important part of ALL that is 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 was raised. In 1959 she married João Gilberto—a guitarist who pioneered the bossa nova (Portuguese for “new trend”) style and is even sometimes referred to as the “father of bossa nova.”
In 1963, Gilberto traveled with him to New York. There, she accompanied the guitarist to a recording session for an album with the American saxophonist Stan Getz. The album was set to include a track called “Garota de Ipanema” or “Girl From Ipanema,” referring to a beachfront neighborhood in Rio. When the session’s producer found out that Gilberto spoke English, he encouraged her to record an English version of the song, despite her complete lack of professional singing experience at the time.
Her dreamy vocals floating over Getz’s lilting sax made the recording a hit when it was released the following year, reaching No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Gilberto also received a Grammy nomination for best female vocal performance for the song and the record would go on to sell over 1 million copies and claim a gold disc. But her relationship with her husband was deteriorating at the same time that her star was rising, and the pair divorced in 1965.
Although she never had another major hit, “The Girl From Ipanema” is thought to have become the most recorded popular song in music history after the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Gilberto also continued to collect numerous accolades including the Latin Jazz USA award for lifetime achievement in 1992, and she was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame a decade later.
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