Lyrics from “Na estrada da vida” by Wilson Batista (1929), recorded by Luis Barbosa (1933)
Todo homem carrega sua cruz // Every man bears his cross
Na estrada da vida // On the road of life
Que é longa e sem luz // That’s long and dark
Sou mais infeliz que outro qualquer // I’m unhappier than the next guy
Tenho um contrapeso, é de uma mulher // I have an extra weight, it’s a woman’s
(o destino assim quer) //(That’s how fate wants it)
Com desdém vive pra me criticar // With disdain, she lives to criticize me
Teu orgulho algum dia há de acabar // Some day her pride will run out
Eu sei que de mim tu não tens dó // I know that you don’t pity me
A culpa é minha, eu podia viver só // It’s my fault, I could live alone
(Mas é que todo, todo, todo…)// (But it’s just that every, every, every)
Deus é justo, e eu não te rogo praga // God is just, and I don’t wish a plague on you
O que se faz aqui, aqui mesmo se paga // What’s done here is paid for right here
Caminho pela estrada sem ter luz // I walk along the road without any light
Vou pagando os meus pecados // I just go along paying for my sins
Carregando a minha cruz // Bearing my cross
As Jairo Severiano points out in Uma história da música popular brasileira, all of the greatest voices from Brazil’s Época de Ouro (1930s, ’40s and ’50s), with the exception of Vicente Celestino, recorded sambas. These singers included Orlando Silva, Francisco Alves, and Silvio Caldas. But several radio crooners specialized particularly in sambas, offering beautiful renditions that exemplified how the blossoming genre ought to be sung. These singers included Mario Reis, Ciro Monteiro, Vassourinha, Araci de Almeida – and Luis Barbosa.
Mario Reis was the first to achieve resounding success in the early ’30s with sambas recorded in a colloquial style, rather than the over-dramatized formality of romantic songs of the period. Shortly afterward, when Reis was at his peak, Luis Barbosa appeared on the scene. Barbosa adopted a similar style to Reis’s, while incorporating perfectly timed breaks and beating the rhythm on a straw hat, which, on top of being charming, proved easier to handle than a heavier pandeiro. These trappings made Barbosa an immediate crowd pleaser, beginning with his appearance at age 21 on the variety shows Esplêndido Programa and Programa Casé. Renowned Brazilian music critic Lúcio Rangel said of Luis Barbosa: “He was the most extraordinary of all samba singers. He possessed disconcerting rhythm, rare musicality, and he transformed the sambas he sang, adding his extra special touch.” Mario Lago, another of Barbosa’s illustrious fervent admirers, thought Luis Barbosa was at his best on stage, accompanied by a good pianist; Lago felt Barbosa stiffened up in the recording studio.
Barbosa died of tuberculosis at age 28, and while it’s tough to come by records of his performances, he left behind nearly 40 recordings, including “Seja breve” (by Noel Rosa, 1933); “No tabuleiro da baiana” in a duet with Carmen Miranda (by Ary Barroso, 1936), and “Lalá e Lelé” (by Jaime Brito and Manezinho Araújo, 1937), along with this 1933 recording.
Barbosa was so admired by the early ’30s that when he surprised Wilson Batista on 28 April 1933, telling him that he had recorded this song, Wilson, elated, proceeded to go out and get totally plastered. He was arrested, but upon explaining why he was celebrating, he made friends with the officer who had arrested him, who even went on to give Wilson a little money.
This song was special for Wilson Batista because it was his first samba performed for the public in Rio. (His first to be recorded was “Por favor vá embora,” recorded in 1932.) Batista moved from his hometown of Campos dos Goytacazes to Rio de Janeiro in 1929, and began to hang out and get odd jobs around the Teatro de Revista (like Vaudeville theaters), where he dreamed of becoming a tap dancer. At the theater he had the chance to show this composition to Araci Cortes, who performed the song in 1929.
Main sources for this post: Uma história da música popular brasileira by Jairo Severiano, and Wilson Baptista: O samba foi sua glória by Rodrigo Alzuguir.
Recording: Victor – 28 April 1933, released in December 1933; Piano: Mário Travassos de Araújo, with Luis Barbosa on the straw hat for percussion.