Na estrada da vida

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

–Commentary —

Luis Barbosa, middle, with brothers Paulo Barbosa on piano and Barbosa Jr  (right) singing.

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.



Revendo o passado

Lyrics from “Revendo o passado” by Freire Junior (1926)

Recordar é viver //To remember is to live
Diz o velho ditado  // As the old saying goes
Recordar é sofrer // To remember is to suffer
Saudades do passado // Longing for the past
Um sonho que viveu // A dream that lived
Em nosso coração // In our heart
Um amor que morreu // A love that died
Deixando uma cruel paixão //Leaving behind a cruel passion
Crer num sonho de ilusão //  To believe in an illusory dream
Ver na imaginação// To see in our imagination
A imagem do primeiro amor // The image of our first love
Que tal qual uma flor // That just like a flower
Murchou ao relento // Withered by the elements
No chão… secou…// On the ground… dried up

Quem na estrada do viver // Who on this road of life
Não encontrou alguém // Has never come across someone
Alguém que o fez sofrer // Who made them suffer
A quem se dedicou //Someone they dedicated themselves to
Talvez, quem saber amor… // Who maybe – who knows – they loved
Quem não teve uma paixão // Who’s never had a passion
A mesma ainda tem // That they still hold with them
E vive na ilusão // Living off of the illusion
De ainda de ser feliz // Of one day being happy
Só o destino não quis…// –Just that destiny didn’t will it
Quem não tem no seu passado // Who doesn’t have in their past
As cinzas do seu bem // The ashes of their dear one
No túmulo guardado // Stored away in a tomb
O seu primeiro amor// Their first love
Talvez o derradeiro… // Maybe their last…
Sim… // Yes
Somos todos iguais / We’re all alike
A vida é mesmo assim // And that’s what life is
Desilusões e nada mais. // Disillusions and nothing more

–Commentary —


A beautiful version of “Revendo o passado” on trombone ( made me want to find out more about the song. It turns out it’s a 1926 waltz by Freire Junior, first recorded by Orquestra da Casa Edison; next came this 1933 recording by one of Brazil’s greatest seresteiros, Augusto Calheiros.

Calheiros was born in Macéio, Alagoas, in northeastern Brazil, in 1891. He moved from Macéio to the larger northeastern city of Recife in 1923, and then to Rio de Janeiro in 1926, where he lived until his death in 1956. He was one of Brazil’s most popular singers during the country’s golden age of radio – the Época de Ouro – in the 1930s and ’40s,.  earning the nickname “Patativa do Norte” after a type of tanager with a delightful song.

Jacob do Bandolim also recorded the song in 1956; Orlando Silva in 1957; Altamiro Carrilho in 1958; Jair Rodrigues in 1981, and Baden Powell, on his album Rio das Valsas, in 1988,  among others.