Today I’m departing from the usual format of this blog to tell a little story I found funny about a lyric-less choro song. If any of you, my dear readers, are fans of the 1981 comedy Stripes, and happen to have watched it enough to have the soundtrack fully fixed in your memory, then maybe you’ll remember the scene backed by this tune (as my super-impressive mega-mooning friend Geoff did, calling my attention to this whole matter):
If you don’t remember the scene, it’s a pretty gloomy one: Bill Murray’s car has just been repossessed and, as he protests, his fresh, warm pizza slides onto the street on a dreary New York day. It’s a moment when just about anyone might start crying softly. And as it happens, Elmer Bernstein’s tune to match the moment is astonishingly similar to a Brazilian choro by just that name – “Crying softly” – from 1963. The similarity is so striking that I decided to have a look around for Bernstein-Brazil connections, and found that five years after “Chorando baixinho” was released, Bernstein came to Rio de Janeiro to be a judge for the III International Song Festival of October 1968. Perhaps the world-renowned composer heard “Chorando baixinho” and saved it for a dreary day?
Lyrics from “Carinhoso” by Pixinguinha and João de Barro (1936)
Meu coração// My heart,
Não sei por que// I don’t know why
Bate feliz// Beats happily
Quando te vê// When it sees you
E os meus olhos ficam sorrindo// And my eyes can’t stop smiling
E pelas ruas vão te seguindo// And, through the streets, they go on following you
Mas mesmo assim// But even so
Foges de mim// You avoid me
Ah! se tu soubesses como eu sou tão carinhoso// Ah, if you only knew how loving I am
E o muito e muito que te quero// And just how much I want you
E como é sincero meu amor// And how sincere my love is
Eu sei que tu não fugirias mais de mim// I know you wouldn’t run from me anymore
Vem, vem, vem, vem // Come, come, come, come…
Vem sentir o calor dos labios meus// Come feel the warmth of my lips
À procura dos teus// Seeking yours
Vem matar esta paixão// Come quench this passion
Que me devora o coração// Which devours my heart
E só assim, então// And only then
Serei feliz, bem feliz// Will I be happy – very happy
Pixinguinha composed “Carinhoso” in 1917, at age 19, but since it didn’t conform to the strict standards for choro at the time (it had only two parts, while the standard was three, following the same structure as polka) he set it aside for over ten years.
“Carinhoso” was first released in December 1928 by the Orquestra Típica Pixinguinha-Donga, and was recorded two more times in its instrumental version, by the Orquestra Victor Brasileira in 1929 and by the mandolinist Luperce Miranda in 1934 – both times registered mistakenly as “Carinhos.”
Still, the song that would go on to become “the song of the 20th century,” in the words of Paulinho da Viola, didn’t make much of an impact until Braguinha (Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga, also known as João de Barro) composed the lyrics in 1936, upon request by the actress and singer Heloísa Helena.
Helena wanted a new song to perform with the show Parada das Maravilhas, and she suggested that Braguinha add lyrics to “Carinhoso.” Braguinha agreed, and immediately went to see Pixinguinha and hear him play “Carinhoso” at the dance hall El Eldorado (now Centro Cultural Carioca). That same night, he hurriedly wrote lyrics for the song that went on to become perhaps the best-known and one of the ten most recorded MPB songs of all time.
In the documentary Paulinho da Viola: Meu Tempo é Hoje, Paulinho da Viola remarks,”[Carinhoso] was written in 1917 and traversed the century to such an extent that in any Brazilian bar if someone picks up a guitar and starts playing, everyone is able to sing along.”
Braguinha’s biographer Jairo Severiano observes that the lyrics are nothing too special – not among Braguinha’s best, which is not surprising considering the rush with which he wrote them. And top radio voices Francisco Alves and Carlos Galhardo passed up the opportunity to record the song before it was offered to Orlando Silva, who recorded “Carinhoso” along with Pixinguinha’s beautiful waltz “Rosa,” with lyrics by Otávio de Souza, in 1937. At the time, even Orlando Silva apparently wasn’t too convinced by the lyrics: he reportedly requested alternative lyrics from the composer Pedro Caetano.
But after the resounding success of the recording, Orlando Silva claimed in several interviews that he was the one who had requested that Braguinha put lyrics to the song. Both Pixinguinha and Braguinha denied this claim.
Source for this post: Yes, nós temos Braguinha by Jairo Severiano (1987)
If I were able for a day, this love, this joy
I swear I’d give you – if I were able – this love every day
Come close, come without fear, come closer my sweet-heart
Come listen to this secret hidden in a choro song
If only you knew how I like your scent, your flower-like way
You wouldn’t deny a little kiss to he who’s lost in love
Cry, flute; cry, pine; I, your singer, cry
Cry gently, so quietly, in this choro speaking of love
When you pass by, so beautiful, on this sunbathed road
My soul grows afflicted, and I forget even football
Come in a hurry, come without fear
It was for you, my sweet-heart, that I kept this secret
Hidden in a choro song, deep down in my heart
— Interpretation —
Tom Jobim began this song in Hotel Adams in New York, where he was on honeymoon in 1978 with his second wife, Ana Lontra Jobim. He dedicated the song to Ana, whom he had met two years earlier in 1976, when she was nineteen years old. Ana spent the final seventeen years of Tom’s life with him, and they had two children together, João Franciso (1979-1998) and Maria Luiza (born 1987). Ana recalls that Tom enthusiastically declared Maria Luiza an “artistic genius” shortly after her birth; he forbade Ana from enrolling her in any art programs lest they corrupt her talent. João Fransisco died tragically at eighteen, when he crashed the car he’d been given two weeks earlier as a graduation present from Ana.
Luiz Roberto Oliveira claims a small role in these lyrics, recounting that he visited Tom at his mother Nilza Jobim’s home in Leblon in 1978 and found Tom struggling to finalize the lyrics to this song. Tom wasn’t happy with the line “chora flauta, chora pinho” (above: “cry flute, cry pine” — pine is used in portuguese as slang for guitar), in part because he thought chora pinho sounded like one word – chorapinho. But Oliveira recalls telling Tom that the line sounded fine, and so Tom left it as it was.
In the first clip above, Tom presents Falando de amor to his longtime partner Chico Buarque as a potential song for Chico to record, describing it as “that kind of Brazilian song that cries and laughs, laughs and cries.” (To read about the friendship and partnership between Tom and Chico, you can see the posts for Retrato em branco e preto – the first song they composed together, Sabiá and Piano na Mangueira.) The song is a choro canção (alternatively known as samba-choro)in the same genre as Pixinguinha’s “Carinhoso.” Choro means “cry” in Portuguese, and Tom played around with that in the lyrics: “Cry, flute; cry, pine; I, your singer, cry/ Cry gently, so quietly, in this choro speaking of love.” Tom recorded Falando de amor for his album Terra Brasilis, released in 1980.
Lyrics in Portuguese
Se eu pudesse por um dia
Esse amor, essa alegria
Eu te juro, te daria
Se pudesse esse amor todo dia
Chega perto, vem sem medo
Chega mais meu coração
Vem ouvir esse segredo
Escondido num choro canção
Se soubesses como eu gosto
Do teu cheiro, teu jeito de flor
Não negavas um beijinho
A quem anda perdido de amor
Chora flauta, chora pinho
Choro eu o teu cantor
Chora manso, bem baixinho
Nesse choro falando de amor
Quando passas, tão bonita
Nessa rua banhada de sol
Minha alma segue aflita
E eu me esqueço até do futebol
Vem depressa, vem sem medo
Foi pra ti meu coração
Que eu guardei esse segredo
Escondido num choro canção
Lá no fundo do meu coração
Main source for this post: Tom Jobim: Histórias de Canções by Wagner Homem and Luiz Roberto Oliveira.