Lyrics from “Corcovado” by Antônio Carlos Jobim (1960)
Good Audio Version (João Gilberto)
A little nook, a guitar
This love, a song
To make the loved one happy
Plenty of calm to think, and to have time to dream
Through the window I see Corcovado, Redentor, how lovely
I want life like this always, with you near me,
Until the old flame dies out
And I who was sad, disbelieving in this world,
Upon finding you I found out what happiness is, my love.
This song is an icon of the bossa nova genre, which was both adored and derided for its focus on superficialities of life in Rio: beaches, breezes, beers, beautiful views, music and love.
Tom Jobim wrote both the melody and the lyrics. Initially the song began, “A cigarette, a guitar,” but the mention of a cigarette made João Gilberto uncomfortable when he was recording the song for the album O amor, o sorriso e a flor. He told Tom a cigarette was something rotten, and convinced him to change the verse to “A little nook, a guitar”; it became one of the best known and most sung verses of bossa nova.
Corcovado, the mountain where Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue stands, could be seen from the window of Tom Jobim’s apartment at Rua Nascimento Silva 107, where he lived with his wife Tereza from 1953 – 1962. The line in Portuguese about the window would translate more literally to, “From the window one sees Corcovado – Redentor …” Shortly after Tom wrote the song a new building blocked the view.
The first English version of the song was written by Buddy Kaye, who said he based the first lines on Tom Jobim’s suggested English version (“Quiet nights of quiet stars, quiet chords from my guitar”). Gene Lees ended up modifying and taking credit for the English version, which he left as “Quiet nights of quiet stars” (sung here by Frank Sinatra). Many artists still sang Buddy Kaye’s earlier version, however, and now Lees and Kaye are often credited together for “Quiet nights of quiet stars.”
Lyrics in Portuguese
Um cantinho um violão
Este amor, uma canção
Pra fazer feliz a quem se ama
Muita calma pra pensar
E ter tempo pra sonhar
Da janela vê-se o Corcovado
O Redentor que lindo
Quero a vida sempre assim com você perto de mim
Até o apagar da velha chama
E eu que era triste
Descrente deste mundo
Ao encontrar você eu conheci
O que é felicidade meu amor
Main sources for this post: Chega de Saudade: A História e as Histórias de Bossa Nova, by Ruy Castro; Histórias de Canções: Tom Jobim by Wagner Homem; and A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol 2 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello