Ouro de Tolo

Lyrics from Ouro de Tolo (Fool’s Gold) by Raul Seixas

Album: Krig-ha Bandolo (1973)

I ought to be content

Because I have a job

I’m called a respectable citizen

And I earn 4,000 cruzeiros per month

I ought to thank the Lord

For having had success in life as an artist

I ought to be happy

Because I was able to buy a Corcel 73

I ought to be cheerful and satisfied

Because I live in Ipanema

After having gone hungry for two years

Here in the Marvelous City

I ought to be smiling and proud

For having finally won in life

But I think that’s all a big joke

And a little dangerous…

I ought to be content

For having achieved everything I wanted

But I, stupid, confess

That I’m disappointed

Because it was so easy to achieve

And now I ask myself, “And then what?”

I have a lot of great things to achieve

And I can’t just stop there…

I ought to be happy because the Lord gave me Sunday

To go with my family to the Zoo, to give popcorn to the monkeys

Ah, but what a boring guy am I,

That I don’t find entertaining at all,

Monkey, beach, car

Newspaper, slide

I find it all a bore…

It’s you looking in the mirror

And feeling like a giant idiot

Knowing you’re a human

Ridiculous, limited

That only uses 10 % of your animal head

And you still believe

That you’re a doctor, priest or policeman

That you’re contributing with your part

To our beautiful social structure

I won’t sit on the throne of an apartment

With my mouth wide open

Full of teeth

Waiting for death to arrive…

Because far from the fences

With flags waving

That separate lawns

On the calm crest of my eye that sees

Rests the resonant shadow

Of a flying saucer

I won’t sit on the throne of an apartment

With my mouth wide open

Full of teeth

Waiting for death to arrive…

Because far from the fences

With flags waving

That separate lawns

On the calm crest of my eye that sees

Rests the resonant shadow

Of a flying saucer

— Interpretation —

Ouro de Tolo is perhaps the most iconic track from Raul Seixas’s debut album, Krig-ha Bandolo, which Rolling Stone rates at  number 12 on its list of the Top 100 Brazilian Albums of all time.  The rebellious autobiographical lyrics flew in the face of Brazil’s burgeoning  bourgeois class, which was prospering during Brazil’s so-called “Economic Miracle” years.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were years of exceptional economic growth in Brazil. The country’s GDP grew at around 10% per year as a result of the structural reforms implemented by the military government, which had taken power through a coup in 1964.  Still, the years represent a somber paradox in Brazilian history: the period also came to be known as the “Years of Lead” (anos de chumbo) because of the repressive military regime.  The  economic growth only benefited a small elite; income inequality boomed  along with the economy, and this inequality would not be mitigated until presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and then Lula instituted sweeping social programs beginning in the late 1990s.

Ouro de Tolo is a rejection of the values espoused by the military regime and the upper middle class that embraced the accompanying prosperity with unbounded consumerism.  The artist,  Raul Seixas, was born in Salvador da Bahia on June 28, 1945.  When he was twelve his family moved to a house near the U.S. Consulate; as an adolescent, Raul hung out with the children of diplomats, who introduced him to Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Barry, and other English Rock and Roll icons.  Raul said he listened to his Elvis albums until they wouldn’t play anymore, and quickly began to adopt Rock n Roll as a way of being, rather than just a musical style.   He says he was made fun of in school for his manner of dressing and speaking; he used hair gel, brightly colored shirts and a leather jacket — not fashionable attire in northeastern Brazil in the early 1960s.  American rock music was still largely unknown throughout most of the region,  and most of Raul’s classmates, family and friends listened to more traditional Brazilian music.

In 1962, Raul formed his first band, the Relâmpagos do Rock, and then changed the name to The Panters in 1964. That same year, Raul became inspired by the Beatles, and decided that if they could achieve success through their style of singing about the world and their opinions on society, so could he.  In 1967, Raul married American Edith Wisner, whose father was a pastor and opposed to Raul’s career.  Over the next five years,  Raul struggled to reconcile his lifestyle and career with the desire of his wife and in-laws.  His band, Os Panteras, was invited to Rio de Janeiro in 1967, but did not achieve success initially.  Raul returned to Bahia and assumed a life as a “respectable citizen,” teaching English and guitar. He passed the exam to enter law school (vestibular), mostly as a way of showing everyone how easy and meaningless it is to study for and pass such exams.  In 1971, he returned to Rio de Janeiro with Edith to work as a producer at CBS.  There, working in the studio, he said he – like the Beatles – learned to compose music and write lyrics with ease.

With the birth of his daughter Simone, Raul was a husband and father, in a comfortable job, in a comfortable apartment in the well-to-do Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.  But he still aspired to write music.  In 1972, he read a story about flying saucers and sought out the author. The author turned out to be Paulo Coelho (using the pseudonym Augusto Figueiredo), with whom he formed a deep friendship and working partnership.  Facing an ultimatum, Raul decided to leave CBS and return to making music. He entered the VII International Song Festival in Rio  (VII Festival Internacional da Canção) and was well-received; a year later, he quickly achieved idol status with the release of Krig-ha Bandolo, with a style clearly emulating Bob Dylan’s sometimes harshly nasal singing and rhythmically free text declamation. The military censors, always slow to react, missed the sharp criticism of the capitalistic and oppressive society they were cultivating; once they realized the gravity of the lyrics, the album was already a smash hit.

Likely because of drug abuse and alcoholism, Seixas’s health deteriorated, along with his musical production, in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. He died in 1989 from pancreatitis after failing to take insulin the night before.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)

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