Corcovado

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.

The apartment where Tom Jobim wrote Corcovado, and a picture of him inside. Photos via culturabrasil.com.br.
The apartment where Tom Jobim wrote Corcovado, and a picture of him inside. Photos via culturabrasil.com.br.

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.

View of Corcovado similar to the view from Tom Jobim's window in Ipanema in 1960.
View of Corcovado similar to the view from Tom Jobim’s window in Ipanema in 1960.

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 English version of the song (sung here by Frank Sinatra) was written by Gene Lees,   and represents one of the best English-language versions of the bossa-nova repertoire.

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

Advertisements

Lígia

Lyrics from “Lígia” by Tom Jobim (1972)



Good Audio Version (João Gilberto)

I’ve never dreamed of you, I’ve never gone to the movies
I don’t like samba, I don’t go to Ipanema
I don’t like rain, I don’t like sun
I never called you up, why, if I knew?
I never attempted – and would never dare – the sweet nothings
That I learned with you
No, Lígia, Lígia

To go out with you holding hands on a serene afternoon
A cold beer in a bar in Ipanema
Walk along the beach down to Leblon
I’ve never fallen in love, I’d never be able to marry you
I would suffer such pain inevitably just to lose you in the end

You come close to me with your peculiar ways, and I say yes
But your brown eyes fill me with more fear than a ray of sun
Lígia, Lígia

— Interpretation–

Tom Jobim at Ipanema Beach, c. 1968
Tom Jobim at Ipanema Beach, c. 1968

Tom Jobim used to say that any song with a woman’s name just stirred up trouble. He cited the case of Dorival Caymmi’s “Marina,” which provoked threats to Caymmi from an angry husband who thought the song had been written for his wife.

And indeed “Lígia” caused some problems for Tom, since the name happened to be the name of his close friend Fernando Sabino’s wife.

In interviews over the years following the release of “Ligia,” Tom avoided the subject or denied that the song was written for Sabino’s wife, Lygia Marina de Moraes. But in a 1988 interview with Ruy Castro for Playboy, Tom hinted that his denials could be interpreted in the same way as the denials in the song: “Fernando Sabino is a good friend, I get along really well with him and his wife, Lygia. They come to my house, I want all the best for them and, naturally, Lygia is a very beautiful woman and all that. What exists in  “Lígia” is the following: something that you deny so much that ultimately it turns into an affirmation – a supreme affirmation of love. ‘I’ve never dreamed of you, I’ve never gone to the cinema… when I called you… it was just an illusion, I ripped up your name.’ That is to say, I’m not even close to Lygia.”
Continue reading “Lígia”

Falsa Baiana

Lyrics from “Falsa Baiana” by Geraldo Pereira (1944)



Good Audio Versions: João Gilberto, Gal Costa

[This] baiana, who goes into the samba and just stands there
Doesn’t samba, doesn’t dance, doesn’t move or nothing
Doesn’t know how to leave the youth in a craze

[The] baiana is the one who goes into the samba any which way
That moves, that shakes, twists her hips into a knot
Leaving the young’uns’ mouths watering

The phony baiana, when she goes into the samba,
No one goes out of their way, no one claps
No one opens the circle, no one yells “Oba, Salve a Bahia, Lord”
But we like it when a baiana dances samba just right
From the top on down, she rolls her little eyes, saying,
“I’m a daughter of São Salvador”

— Interpretation —

Geraldo Pereira, image via Funarte

Dona Isaura, the wife of the composer Roberto Martins, takes the dubious honor of being the inspiration for this song. On the second to last night of Carnaval in 1944, Martins was at a bar chatting with Geraldo Pereira when Dona Isaura showed up, dressed up as a baiana (a woman from the state of Bahia, where the population is predominantly of African descent). In contrast to Bahian women, who are reputed for being joyful and exuding positive energy – and for knowing how to dance samba “just right” – Dona Isaura was in a sour mood that night, prompting her husband to observe to Geraldo, “Check out the phony baiana.” Martins’s observation got Pereira thinking about how to distinguish a true baiana from an impostor, and he wrote his greatest hit based on that premise.

Baiana dancing
What would appear to be a true baiana, dancing.

Pereira’s innovative style of syncopated samba and the rhythm within the lyrics themselves had a strong influence on João Gilberto, who, in turn, went on the make this song doubly famous with his bossa nova version, released on the 1973 LP João Gilberto.  

Geraldo Pereira was born in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais,  in 1918, and moved to Rio de Janeiro’s renowned Morro da Mangueira  in 1930. He died in 1955, at age 37, from a hemorrhage that was rumored to have been caused by a fight with an almost mythical marginal figure of the carioca night, the drag artist and capoeirista known as Madame Satã (Madam Satan). Although even Satã took advantage of this story, the most reliable sources say Pereira actually died from an untreated intestinal disease that was aggravated by his drinking habits.

How to dress up as a falsa baiana.
How to dress up as a falsa baiana.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Baiana que entra no samba e só fica parada
Não samba, não dança, não bole nem nada
Não sabe deixar a mocidade louca
Baiana é aquela que entra no samba de qualquer maneira
Que mexe, remexe, dá nó nas cadeiras
Deixando a moçada com água na boca

A falsa baiana quando entra no samba
Ninguém se incomoda, ninguém bate palma
Ninguém abre a roda, ninguém grita ôba
Salve a bahia, senhor

Mas a gente gosta quando uma baiana
Samba direitinho, de cima embaixo
Revira os olhinhos dizendo
Eu sou filha de são salvador

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos da músicas brasileiras by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Melo