“Lábios Que Beijei” – “Nada Além” – “Enquanto Houver Saudade”

Lyrics for “Lábios que beijei” by J. Cascata and Leonel Azevedo, recorded by Orlando Silva (1937)


Lábios que beijei / Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei / Hands that I clutched
Numa noite de luar, assim, / On a moonlit night like this
O mar na solidão bramia/ The sea in its solitude bellowed
E o vento a soluçar, pedia / And the howling wind begged
Que fosses sincera para mim/ That you be true to me

Nada tu ouviste/ You listened to nothing
E logo que partiste / And after you left
Para os braços de outro amor/ For the arms of another love
Eu fiquei chorando/ I was left crying
Minha mágoa cantando/ My anguish singing out
Sou estátua perenal da dor / I’m a longstanding statue of pain

Passo os dias soluçando com meu pinho/ I spend my days sobbing with my guitar
Carpindo a minha dor, sozinho/ Wailing out my pain, all alone
Sem esperanças de vê-la jamais / Without any hopes of seeing you again
Deus tem compaixão deste infeliz/ God have mercy on this wretch
Porque sofrer assim/  Why such suffering
Compadecei-vos dos meus ais / Take pity on my pain
Tua imagem permanece imaculada / Your image remains immaculate
Em minha retina cansada/ In my retina grown weary
De chorar por teu amor/ From crying for your love

Lábios que beijei/ Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei/ Hands that I clutched
Volta vem curar a minha dor/ Come back to cure my sorrow

Lyrics from “Nada Além” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)

Nada além / Nothing more
Nada além de uma ilusão/ Nothing more than an illusion
Chega bem / That’s well enough
Que é demais para o meu coração / It’s too much for my heart
Acreditando / Believing
Em tudo que o amor mentindo sempre diz / In everything that love, lying, always says
Eu vou vivendo assim feliz / I go on living happily like this
Na ilusão de ser feliz/ Under the illusion of being happy
Se o amor só nos causa sofrimento e dor / If love only causes us suffering and pain
É melhor, bem melhor a ilusão do amor/ Better, much better, is the illusion of love
Eu não quero e não peço / I don’t wish for, nor do I ask
Para o meu coração/ for my heart
Nada além de uma linda ilusão / Anything more than a beautiful illusion

Lyrics from “Enquanto Houver Saudade” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)


Não posso acreditar / I just can’t believe
Que algumas vezes/ That now and then
Não lembres com vontade de chorar/ You don’t think back with the urge to cry
Daqueles deliciosos quatro meses/ On those four heavenly months
Vividos sem sentir e sem pensar/ Lived without sensing and without thinking

Não posso acreditar/ I just can’t believe
Que hoje não sintas/ That today you don’t feel
Saudade dessa história singular/ Suadade for that singular story
Escrita com as mais suaves tintas/ Written in the tenderest shades
Que existem pra escrever o verbo amar/ That exist to write the verb ‘to love’

Enquanto houver saudade/ As long as saudade exists
Pensarás em mim/ You’ll think about me
Pois a felicidade/ Because happiness
Não se esquece assim/ Isn’t forgotten so easily
O amor passa mas deixa/ Love passes, but leaves
Sempre a recordação/ Forever the memory
De um beijo ou de uma queixa/ Of a kiss or a complaint
No coração/ In the heart

— Commentary —

Orlando Silva (L) and Pixinguinha. (Not quite sure of date – will insert when I find it!)
“Lábios que beijei” was an anticipated release: In its April 25, 1936, edition, the magazine Carioca announced the Orlando Silva was preparing to record the song, which was released the following year.

I know most readers who end up here are more interested in the likes of Caetano Veloso and João Gilberto  than romantic valsas from the late 1930s. But as Caetano points out in his memoir Verdade Tropical (1997), João Gilberto called Orlando Silva (1915-1978) the “world’s greatest singer,” and in the few interviews Gilberto granted, he almost unfailingly mentioned Orlando Silva’s refined style as the inspiration for bossa nova.

In Verdade Tropical, Caetano (who turns 66 today — August 7, 2018 — parabéns, Caetano!) suggests that “any fan of Brazilian popular music, in any corner of the world, should try to listen to Orlando Silva’s recordings from the 1930s to better understand (and get more pleasure from) the mystery of the misty sound of the Portuguese language over the Afro-Amerindian rhythm-scape.”

Custódio Mesquita (at piano), Mário Lago, and Orlando Silva. Image via Instituto Piano Brasileiro.

Caetano praises Silva’s “celestial suaveness,” his inventive phrasing, exquisite timing and overall “miraculous” musicality.  Silva had a powerful voice but always used it artfully; he softened, rather than exaggerated, the high notes he hit, for instance, and avoided the vocal “exhibitionism” of his counterparts, Caetano notes.

Silva was known as the cantor dos multidões —  the singer of the masses — and achieved an unparalleled kind of stardom after he released “Lábios que beijei” in 1937. Fans were known to tear at his clothes and faint in his presence in a manner that would only become more familiar with stars like Frank Sinatra years later. His extraordinary success was all the more impressive given his humble background: Silva was from a working-class family in Rio’s North Zone. His father, a choro guitar player and railway worker, died from the Spanish flu when Silva was three, and as a young boy, Silva began working as a meal deliverer. He held several jobs, including bus-fare collector, where his colleagues heard him singing and encouraged him to go to a radio test; once radio producers became aware of Silva, he quickly rose to stardom.

As Caetano points out, Silva created an entirely new style of Brazilian song with his brilliant manner of adjusting his interpretive style to the advent of the electric microphone. Bing Crosby was among the first to have successfully pioneered such changes in singing technique in the United States, where electric recording took off earlier. In turn, while Brazilian singers Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves — men “much richer and better educated than Orlando,” Caetano reminds — worked to incorporate Crosby’s techniques, “there’s more Bing Crosby in Orlando Silva (who possibly heard the American singer, but very little and without a chance to become very familiar with his work) than in those showy singers.”

Several accidents and sicknesses throughout his life left Silva susceptible to morphine dependence, and he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction from the 1940s until his death from a stroke on August 7, 1978 — Caetano’s thirty-sixth birthday.

“Lábios que beijei” was Orlando Silva’s first and greatest hit, according to music historian Jairo Severiano, who wrote that the “melancholy composition never found another interpreter as perfect as the young Orlando, who was 22 at the time,” and that Silva’s presence is so important to the song that one could “symbolically consider him a partner in the composition, alongside Cascata and Leonel Azevedo.” Radamés Gnattali orchestrated “Lábios que beijei” for the 1937 recording, giving an emphasis to the strings that, after the success of that recording, became standard for the Brazilian romantic repertoire.

Screenshot 2018-08-07 at 12.12.45 PM
An announcement from the newspaper A Noite from July 10, 1937, describes the show “Rumo ao Cattete,” which had opened the night before at Teatro Recreio. 

“Nada Além” and  “Enquanto Houver Saudade” were both composed by one of the greatest duos in Brazilian popular music — Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago — for the 1937 show Rumo ao Cattete (Headed to Catete’ [presidential palace]) — about the presidential elections that were set to take place in late 1937 but were cancelled by Getúlio Vargas’s November 1937 coup that installed his Estado Novo regime.  As Jairo Severiano recounts in A Canção no Tempo, “Nada Além” accompanied a comic-romantic scene in which a character played by Armando Nascimento watches as a shop salesman pitches several items to him; when the salesman sees that his would-be client can’t make up his mind, he asks him, “So what does the gentleman desire?,” to which the fellow responds in song: “Nada além, nada além de uma ilusão…”

In a 1984 interview with Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós, Mário Lago recalled that he and Custódio Mesquita composed “Enquanto houver saudade” at the last minute because they realized they needed a song for another scene in the show. As they composed the song, Armando Nascimento learned it line by line as it came together. Lago and Mesquita apparently worked quite well under pressure: The song became one of their best-loved compositions. Mesquita invited Orlando Silva to attend the show, and Lago recounted that when they asked Silva afterwards how he had liked it, he said with urgency, “I want to record those two songs – has anyone claimed them yet?” They were his.

Lago recalled that “Nada além” became a favorite of Dona Canô — Caetano and Maria Bethânia’s mother — and Bethânia went on to record the song.  Meanwhile, in the 1984 interview mentioned above, Lago called his friend Custódio Mesquita “one of the most ‘wronged’ (injustiçado) composers of all time,” with some of the most beautiful melodies in the Brazilian popular repertoire, who “didn’t deserve to be forgotten like he’d been forgotten.”

Caetano sings “Labios que beijei”:

Caetano sings “Nada Além”:


Sources for this post:  Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso; A Canção no Tempo by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello; conversation with Jairo Severiano on Aug. 7, 2018; and Mário Lago’s depoimento for the Projeto Memória Musical Carioca, recorded by Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós at Rio’s Arquivo da Cidade on September 4, 1984.

Mario Lago, Orlando Silva, Custodio Mesquita
A different angle: Mesquita,Lato, and Silva. 


Ai, que saudades da Amélia

Lyrics from “Ai, que saudades da Amélia” by Ataulfo Alves and Mário Lago (1942)


I’ve never seen someone make so many demands, nor do what you do to me
You don’t know what a conscience is, and don’t get that I’m just a poor guy
You only think about luxury and riches, everything you see, you want
Oh my God, how I miss Amélia
That was a true woman

Sometimes she went hungry by my side
And she thought it was quaint to have nothing to eat
And when she saw me upset, she’d say, “My boy, what can be done?”
Amélia wasn’t the least bit vain
Amélia was a real woman.

— Interpretation —

Ataulfo was known for leading music with his white handkerchief. Here he is pictured with Jacob do Bandolim.
Ataulfo was known for “directing” with his white handkerchief. Here he is pictured with Jacob do Bandolim.

“Ai, que saudades da Amélia” was an unlikely Carnival sensation in 1942, mostly thanks to Ataulfo Alves’s conviction that the rather somber-sounding samba was destined to be a hit.

Mario Lago and Ataulfo Alves
Mario Lago and Ataulfo Alves

Alves persisted in recording and furiously promoting the song in spite of protests from his partner Mário Lago, who had written the original verses. Alves expanded upon and changed Lago’s lyrics to an extent that upon hearing the final version, Lago told Alves that he didn’t want his name associated with the song. But Ataulfo was confident in his poetic prowess, and stuck by the song, enlisting publisher Emílio Vitale to help him get it recorded.

The pair peddled the samba to some of the most famous radio singers of the time: Moreira da Silva, Cyro Monteiro, Carlos Galhardo and Orlando Silva. All of them rejected it; Moreira da Silva remarked that the samba sounded more like a funeral march to him. So Alves decided to record it himself. This was a gamble: it was still rare at the time for a samba composer to record his own songs. Alves had released “Leva meu samba” and “Alegria na casa de pobre,” but considered this more of a fluke than anything else. But the executives at Odeon gave the go-ahead to Alves, who swiftly sought out Jacob do Bandolim to accompany him. When Jacob protested that he didn’t have a mandolin on hand,  Alves ran over to Rua do Senado and bought a cheap cavaquinho that Jacob played on, improvising the now famous introduction.

Odeon planned to release the song on its Carnival supplement in 1942, but Alves insisted on getting Mário Lago’s signature first. Lago conceded, in exchange for an advance of 500,000 Reis — cash that Alves couldn’t even dream of getting from Odeon.  Emilio Vitale gave the money, but demanded all rights to the song; Alves agreed, making the “worst deal of his life as a composer,” according to his friend and biographer Sérgio Cabral. In bitter disputes over royalties in the 1940s, Alves ended up on one side, and Vitale — with “Ai, que saudades da Amélia” — on the other. Meanwhile, the samba was so successful that the word Amélia even made its way into Aurelio’s Dictionary, first defined as “a woman who accepts any kind of privation and vexation or offense without complaining, out of love for her man.” (Today in the online dictionary it’s been changed to “hard working woman.”)

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 6.06.08 PMMany Brazilians embraced the song as representative of the ideal Brazilian woman. Others were disgusted by it, and it can still stir up controversy. It’s worth remembering that song was inspired by a joke, and definitely carries a bit of that tongue-in-cheek tone: In a 1953 interview with Radiolândia, Mario Lago revealed that the inspiration for Amélia came from the singer Aracy de Almeida’s brother, the percussionist Almeidinha, who would joke about the former family maid, Amélia: “Ah, Amélia, that was a real woman – she washed, ironed, starched, cooked and took beatings, and never complained.” According to Cabral, Amélia dos Santos Ferreira lived in Realengo, Rio de Janeiro, until her death in 2001, at age 91.

Ataulfo Alves (right) with Louis Armstrong and  Juscelino Kubischek, 1960.
Ataulfo Alves (right) with Louis Armstrong and Juscelino Kubischek at Catete Palace, 1960.

Alves recorded “Ai, que saudades da Amélia” in November 1941 and it was released in January ’42, with Cartola’s “Não posso viver sem ela.” After its release even  Lago was convinced the song had something special,  particularly because it was well received by the crowd of musicians, composers and adepts who gathered at Café Nice. But the disk didn’t sell well. So Alves stepped in again, this time with a fantastically executed show that won over two of the most powerful radio hosts of the time. One of them, Julio Louzada, dedicated an entire Sunday afternoon to “Amélia,” playing it dozens of times on repeat with a few pauses for interviews about the song; suddenly everyone wanted the album.

In the heated Carnival-song contest of 1942, the samba was up against the tremendously popular “Praça Onze” by Herivelto Martins and Grande Otelo. That contest, held in the Fluminense stadium, was decided by audience response. Response to both songs was so overwhelming that the Fluminense team president — who happened to be married to an Amélia — declared a tie for first place. (In a February 1942 letter to Moacir Werneck de Castro, Mário de Andrade expressed a bit of the sentiment behind the tie, writing, “I really, truly liked ‘Amélia’ — it’s about as carioca as it gets. But ‘Vão acabar com Praça Onze’ strangles me with emotion, my word.”  [“Gostei sim, muitíssimo, do Amélia, é das coisas mais cariocas que se pode imaginar. Mas o Vão acabar com a Praça Onze me estrangula de comoção, palavra.”])

Ataulfo Alves was born to a poor family in Miraí, Minas Gerais, on May 2, 1909. His father worked in the coffee fields, played guitar and accordion, and was an extemporaneous speaker. Ataulfo told MIS that by the time he was eight he was out singing and improvising with his father, who was known as “the Captain” around town because his way with words led the plantation owners to effectively make him  their deputy.

But Ataulfo’s father died when Ataulfo was ten, and the family struggled to make ends meet. Soon Ataulfo went to work, first as a milk boy, then as an ox driver, luggage carrier at the train station, shoe-shiner, lunch-box carrier and message delivery boy.

Ataulfo with Roberto Carlos and Caçulinha
Ataulfo with Roberto Carlos and Caçulinha

He moved to Rio in 1927, when a doctor from Miraí invited to work with in a clinic he was opening in the capital. The experience with the doctor and his family resembled indentured servitude, and Alves ended up finding a job at the compounding pharmacy Farmácia e Drogaria do Povo, first as a window-washer and then in the lab, mixing medications. At the same time, Alves began going to the rodas de samba in his neighborhood, Rio Comprido, and eventually organized his own group, remarking, “I could make sambas just like I could make medicine.” One of the most successful samba composers of the 1940s and 1950s, Alves’s poise helped him throughout his career. He was known for being confident, elegant and refined, and for his loyalty to the populist president-dictator Getúlio Vargas. Alves died on April 20th, 1969, just a couple weeks shy of his 60th birthday.

Main sources for this post: Ataulfo Alves: Vida e Obra by Sérgio Cabral, and A Canção no tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol. 1, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello.


Lyrics from “Aurora” by Mário Lago and Roberto Roberti (1941)

If only you were sincere, o-o-o-oh, Aurora,
Check out how good it would be, o-o-o-oh, Aurora

A beautiful apartment, with a doorman and an elevator
And refrigerated air for hot days
“Madame” in front of your name, you would have it now
O-o-o-oh, Aurora


— Interpretation —

“Aurora” was one of the top hits of Carnaval 1941, and is still often mentioned among the greatest Carnaval “marchinhas” of all time.  The song lists major status symbols of the time — an air-conditioned apartment, with an elevator and a doorman — to remind Aurora of all she gave up  (not to mention the possibility of becoming a “madame”) by not being true to the song’s protagonist.

Carmen and Aurora Miranda

On Ash Wednesday, 1940, at a time when  “Ash Wednesdays were truly sorrowful,” according to Mário Lago, Roberto Roberti presented the half-complete “Aurora” to Mário, and the two finished the song together. There was still a year to go before it would become a Carnaval sensation interpreted by Joél and Gaúcho, a beloved duo that sang mostly marchinhas in the 1930s and 1940s. Carmen Miranda — whose sister’s name was Aurora (maybe the subject of the song?) — incorporated the song in her repertoire and sang it throughout the United States in 1941. In the meantime, Harold Adamson, an American songwriter perhaps best known for writing the theme song to I Love Lucy, quickly wrote English lyrics for “Aurora.” The Andrews Sisters‘ performance of the new arrangement became a sensation in the United States and England and was featured in Abbott and Costello’s 1941 comedy-horror film, Hold that Ghost:

The marchinha – or “little march – style was introduced in Rio de Janeiro toward the end of the 19th century by Portuguese theater companies, and provided the soundtrack for Carnaval in Brazil from the 1920s through the 1950s. The style is jovial and jesting, and even the name, little march, satirizes its military roots. The first marchinha written especially for Carnaval was Chiquinha Gonzaga‘s “Ô Abre Alas,” in 1899:

After the 1950s, marchinhas were pushed out of the Carnaval spotlight by samba-enredos, which were written for and performed by Rio de Janeiro’s beloved samba schools. What’s more, the often biting political commentary woven into cheerful marchinhas ensured the disapproval of the military dictatorship that took over in Brazil in 1965, further stifling the genre.

Mário Lago, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1911, was a lawyer, poet, composer, lyricist and actor, and one of the most  highly regarded songwriters in Brazil in the 20th century. Aside from “Aurora,” his most famous songs include “Ai, que saudades da Amélia” and “Atire a primeira pedra,” both written with Ataulfo Alves, “É tão gostoso seu moço,” with Chocolate, and “Numero um,” with Benedito Lacerda. He also acted in a number of movies, including Glauber Rocha‘s classic Terra em Transe.

Roberto Roberti, born in 1915, also in Rio de Janeiro, composed marchinhas and sambas — including a number of hits sung by Carmen Miranda — and was one of the founding members of  the Brazilian Composers Union.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, Vol. 1: 1901-1957, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello.