Go on with your life
Your path is one of peace and love
Is a beautiful song of love
Open your arms and sing
The final hope
The divine hope
Of loving in peace
If everyone were just like you
What a wonder to live
A song in the air
A woman singing
A city singing, smiling, singing, pleading
The beauty to love
Like the sun, like the flower, like the light
To love without lying or suffering
The truth would exist
A truth that no one sees
If everyone in the world were just like you
The two were introduced in 1956 by the music critic Lúcio Rangel while they were having drinks at Vilarino, a downtown bar in Rio de Janeiro that was popular among musicians and journalists. Rangel approached Tom to let him know that Vinicius, seated nearby, wanted his help composing the soundtrack for his play “Orfeu da Conceição“; Tom famously pondered, “Is there any dough in it for me?” Rangel assured him that Vinicius paid well, and so began one of the most celebrated partnerships in the history of Brazilian popular music.
This song and other hits from the tremendously successful play such as “Eu não existo sem você” are recognized as some of the first distinct examples of the nascent bossa nova style. Three years later, the release of João Gilberto’s debut album Chega de Saudade“launched bossa nova for good,” as previously disdainful critics and crowds came to appreciate the new genre.
Tom and Vinicius singing “Se todos fossem iguais a você” in 1977:
Sources for this post include Antonio Carlos Jobim: An Illuminated Man, by Helena Jobim (1996; English translation, 2011) and http://www.jobim.com.br
I know you’re celebrating, friend
It makes me happy
And, while I’m absent
Save a carnation for me
I would like to be in that celebration, friend
With your people
And pick personally some flower
In your garden
I know there are leagues separating us
So much sea, so much sea
I know too how it’s necessary, friend,
To sail, to sail
Over there it’s Spring, friend
Here, I am sick
Send, urgently, some little sniff
Version 2 (1978)
The celebration was beautiful, friend
It made me happy
I still stubbornly save an old carnation for myself
They’ve already wilted your celebration, friend
They’ve forgotten a seed in some little garden corner
I know there are leagues separating us
So much sea, so much sea
I know too how it’s necessary, friend
To navigate, to navigate
Praise Spring, friend
Here I’m in need
Send again a little sniff of rosemary
— Interpretation —
Chico Buarque wrote this song in honor of Portugal’s “Carnation Revolution” of April 25, 1974. The nearly bloodless coup (6 civilians were killed when shots were fired on a crowd from police barracks) marked the end of almost 50 years of fascist dictatorship in Portugal, which began with the military regime of 1926-1933 and continued during Portugal’s “Estado Novo” (New State), from 1933 – 1974. The coup was carried out by Portuguese troops – organized into the “Armed Forces Movement” – who had spent the past 13 years fighting in the gruesome, interminable and unjustified colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Principe. They were led by General Antonio de Spinola, a former deputy armed forces minister and Governor of Portuguese Guinea from 1968-1972 who had been fired after he wrote the book Portugal and the Future, which argued that Portugal needed to seek a political, rather than military, end to the colonial wars.
Just after midnight on April 25, 1974, the song “Grândola, Vila Morena” was played on radio Renascença (Radio Rebirth), calling the troops to action. The troops took control of radio and television broadcast centers and seized several strategic points in the city, including the airport and Salazar Bridge (named for the Estado Novo’s founder and long-term dictator, Antonio Oliveira Salazar) over the River Tagus. They stormed the barracks where Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano had taken refuge, and by dawn, the troops had established control. They demanded the restoration of civil liberties and democratic rights – such as political parties and parliamentary representation – and freedom for the colonies and for political prisoners.
Carnations were in full bloom in Lisbon, and jubilant civilians showered the troops with the flowers.
In the following years, Portugal adopted a strategy known as the 3Ds: Decolonization, democratization, and development, in that order. Economic and political crises rocked the country, though, and these stresses, in the Cold War climate, brought the country to the brink of civil war, “wilting” the euphoric optimism inspired by the Carnation Revolution.
The coup in Portugal happened at a time of extreme oppression in Brazil under the military dictatorship, and as Chico Buarque explains in this video, it became taboo to discuss the revolution. The regime banned the first version of his song. In 1978, Chico rewrote the song to reflect disappointment with the path taken after the revolution. Chico changed the lyrics to speak about the revolution in the past tense, and express hope that the values it espoused could be revived (by “the seed” they must have forgotten in a garden somewhere).
I translated “pá” — a Portuguese (from Portugal) expression used similarly to “dude” in the United States — as friend, though it could be translated as “man.” Along with employing this Portuguese phrase, Chico uses the continental Portuguese verb structure for the present continuous “separating,” and alludes to the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa’s (1888-1935, Lisbon) poem “Navegar é preciso” (It’s necessary to navigate), meaning it’s necessary to push forward, carry on.
The word for rosemary in Portuguese, alecrim, means “dew of the sea” in Latin, and rosemary is native to Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Chico used the opposite seasons — spring in Portugal and fall in Brazil – as a metaphor for the rebirth that was happening in Portugal as Brazil sunk deeper into the fall/winter of military dictatorship.
I was naive when I believed in love
But at least I never gave in to pain
I cried my first sorrow
I cried it all out, so as not to cry anymore
And my heart became serene
Expelling the poison through my gaze
I tried to be as God commanded
Without taking revenge, because revenge has no value
And then, to also forgive he who errs
Is to be forgiven on Earth
Without having to plead forgiveness in heaven
I didn’t mean to resolve
I didn’t mean to refuse
But from a love in ruins, a force ends up
Taking over us
And then protecting
From the abysms that life plots
When time becomes the only evil
And lonesomeness starts to be fatal
I didn’t mean to reflect, no…
I didn’t mean to repress, no
I didn’t mean to fear…
Because against good, I’ve done nothing
And I only want, someday
To be happy, as I’m unhappy
— Interpretation —
In 1964, historian and musicologist Ary Vasconcellos wrote in his classic Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira,”If you have 15 volumes to talk about all Brazilian popular music, you can be sure that it’s too little. But if you have only enough space for one word, not everything is lost; write quickly: Pixinguinha.”
After all, Vasconcellos continued, “What other name, besides Pixinguinha — an instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator, conductor, and all this in brilliant form — could really better represent Brazilian popular music of all time?” Pixinguinha was not only wildly popular but also well-respected among “erudite” music critics of the era. He is also credited — — though controversially– with being one of the first to incorporate influences from jazz into Brazilian popular music.
(In the 1920s, Pixinguinha began to record with saxophone, rather than flute. As his hands began to tremble in the 1930s and 1940s, Pixinguinha switched permanently to saxophone. This move, along with the trumpet and trombone he incorporated in his arrangements, were attributed to influences from American jazz, in part since they came after an international music exposition in Rio de Janeiro in 1922 and Pixinguinha’s visit to Argentina from 1922-1923. These instruments were present in Brazilian music since the 19th century, though, so the influence of jazz in the instrument choice has been questioned.)
Pixinguinha was born Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr. on April 23, 1897 (though the year is controversial because his birth certificate says 1898) in Rio de Janeiro. His father was a flute player who organized musical gatherings with well-known musicians in their family home. Pixinguinha took part, and by age 9 or 10 was already playing cavaquinho.
Though even Pixinguinha admitted uncertainty about the roots of his nickname, his family members confirm that it started out as Pizindim, meaning “good boy” in Afro-Brazilian dialect of the time. Late in life, Pixinguinha attributed the name to his “African grandmother,” but his sisters agreed that a cousin – Santa – had given him the nickname as a boy. Regardless of its origin, everyone agrees that the nickname was well-deserved: throughout his life, Pixinguinha maintained the reputation of “goodness personified,” and many friends or acquaintances referred to him as Saint Pixinguinha.
By 1911, Pixinguinha was already composing his first song — “Lata de Leite” (“Can of milk”), a choro about kids drinking milk taken from their neighbors’ doorsteps. Choro — considered the first truly Brazilian urban popular music — emerged around the turn of the century (1880 – 1920), as Brazilian musicians composed songs that fused European influences like polka and waltz with African and Afro-Brazilian rhythms and styles. The style started out being played in trios of flute, guitar and cavaquinho. In the years after he wrote “Lata de Leite”, Pixinguina went on to become perhaps the most important, influential, beloved and revered choro composer of all time. He began playing in bars and theaters around Rio de Janeiro in 1912; by 1915 his professional success as a composer was sealed and his career took off when the publishing house Carlos Wehrs released his “tango”, “Dominante.”
Those days, only songs following a particular three-part structure were classified as choro; the rest were most often classified as polka – quick or slow – or tango. Even Pixinguinha’s most well-known choro, “Carinhoso,” was originally identified as a “slow polka” by the composer since it didn’t follow the three-part model. In the late 1960s, Pixinguinha said if he were to classify the song again, he would call it a “slow choro.”
“Ingenuo” is credited as one of the first two-part choros, following a structure that would become frequent by the 1950s.
Sources for this post include Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira by Ary Vasconcelos (Livraria Martins Editora, 1964), p. 84 – 88, and Pixinguinha: Filho de Oxum Bexigueno by Marília T. Barboza da Silva and Arthur L. de Oliveira Filho (Gryphus, 1998), along with the documentary Pixinguinha: Nós Somos um Poemaand “Tópicas na música popular brasileira: Uma análise semiótica do choro e da música instrumental” by Marina Beraldo Bastos (Univ. Estadual de Santa Catarina, 2008).