A vida é uma só (pare de tomar a pílula)

Lyrics from “A vida é uma só (pare de tomar a pílula)” by Odaír José (1973)

 

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Já nem sei há quanto tempo // I don’t even know how long it’s been
Nossa vida é uma vida só// Our life is only one
E nada mais// And nothing more

Nossos dias vão passando// Our days go passing by
E você sempre deixando// And you’re always leaving
Tudo pra depois// Everything for later

Todo dia a gente ama// Every day we love one another
Mais você não quer deixar nascer// But you don’t want to give birth
O fruto desse amor//To the fruit of that love

Não entende que é preciso// You don’t understand that we need
Ter alguém em nossa vida// Someone in our life
Seja como for// No matter what

Você diz que me adora// You say you adore me
Que tudo nessa vida sou eu// That I’m everything in this life
Então eu quero ver você// So I want to see you
Esperando um filho meu// Carrying my child
Entao eu quero ver você// So I want to see you
Esperando um filho meu// Carrying my child

(refrain)
Pare de tomar a pílula!// Stop taking the pill!
Pare de tomar a pílula
Pare de tomar a pílula
Porque ela não deixa o nosso filho nascer (3x)// Because it keeps our child from being born

— Commentary —

Image result for odaír josé música brega
Odaír José, c. 1973.

Most people associate protest music during Brazil’s dictatorship (1964-85) with MPB singers like Chico Buarque, Geraldo Vandré, and Elis Regina. But even songs like this one, from the brega (corny, cheesy, lowbrow…) genre — an over-the-top romantic style from the northeast — were vehicles of resistance. Composers of brega ballads critiqued racism, social inequality, and the social conservatism of the regime, and advocated for things such as the legalization of divorce (only passed through a constitutional amendment known as the “divorce law” in 1977). Their songs represented a major channel for political discourse among Brazil’s poorest populations.

This song serves as a perfect example. The military government treated the impoverished northeast as a problem: an overpopulated and undercivilized hinterland that bred radical peasants and hindered the country’s drive toward order and progress. To try to stamp out that problem without instituting meaningful social reforms, the regime pushed birth control pills and IUDs across the region. State-sponsored population-control programs attempted to win hearts and minds with the uninspired slogan “take the pill with lots of love” (tome a pílula com muito amor); this song responded with “stop taking the pill!”

The song was catchy, irreverent, and amusing, and was a runaway hit. After a while, the military regime’s censors caught on to the ruse and did not find it amusing: the song was banned and the discs were taken out of circulation.

Like Chico Buarque, who continued to perform banned songs such as “Cálice” and “Apesar de você,” José continued to sing this one at shows. But after a run-in with an angry general who told him, “if you’re not satisfied with the country, leave,” José opted to leave, and went into exile in England.

The late sixties and early seventies were the worst period of Brazil’s dictatorship, known as the “years of lead” (anos de chumbo). Things began to change in 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel took office as president. More moderate than the hardliners who had ruled since ’67,  Geisel began a gradual liberalization program known as “distensão,” which sought to slowly reintroduce some (uncertain) degree of political liberties. Under that aegis, the mid-seventies saw a loosening of censorship and repression, and Odaír José returned to Brazil. His song, meanwhile, experienced a resurgence of popularity in the mid-nineties, when it was the unlikely soundtrack for a C&A department-store commercial that aired throughout Brazil; legions of teenage boys began singing it again, with no clue as to its original context.

Main source for this post: Eu Não Sou Cachorro, Não,  by Paulo César Araújo.

Mascarada/ Minhas Madrugadas/ Injúria/ Recado/ O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)/ Jurar com Lagrimas/ Rosa de Ouro

Lyrics from “Mascarada” by Zé Kéti and Élton Medeiros (1964)


Vejo agora esse teu lindo olhar/ I see your beautiful gaze
Olhar que eu sonhei/ A sight I dreamed of
E sonhei conquistar/ And dreamed of winning over
E que num dia afinal conquistei, enfim/ And that in the end one day I won over at last Findou-se o carnaval/ Carnival ended
E só nos carnavais/ And only during Carnivals
Encontrava-me sem/ I’d find myself unable
Encontrar este teu lindo olhar, porque/ To find your beautiful gaze, because
O poeta era eu/ I was the poet
Cujas rimas eram compostas/ Whose rhymes were composed
Na esperança de que/ Of the hope that
Tirasses essa máscara/ You’d remove that mask
Que sempre me fez mal/ That always caused me pain
Mal que findou só/ Pain that ended only
Depois do carnaval/ After Carnival

Lyrics from “Minhas Madrugadas” (Paulinho da Viola/ Candeia, 1965)

Vou pelas minhas madrugadas a cantar/ I go along through my late nights, singing
Esquecer o que passou/ To forget all that happened
Trago a face marcada/ I show wear and tear
Cada ruga no meu rosto/ Every wrinkle on my face
Simboliza um desgosto/ Represents a hardship

Quero encontrar em vão o que perdi/ I want to find in vain what I lost
Só resta saudade/ Only saudade remains
Não tenho paz/ I have no peace
E a mocidade/ And my youth
Que não volta mais/ That will never return

Quantos lábios beijei/ How many lips I kissed
Quantas mãos afaguei/ How many hands I caressed
Só restou saudade no meu coração/ Only saudade is left in my heart
Hoje fitando o espelho/ Looking in the mirror today
Eu vi meus olhos vermelhos/ I saw my bloodshot eyes
Compreendi que a vida/ And understood that the life
Que eu vivi foi ilusão/ I lived was an illusion

Lyrics from “Injúria” by Élton Medeiros and Cartola

Pois é/ That’s right
Tudo começou assim/ That’s how it all started
Alguém se vingou em mim/ Someone took revenge on me
Inventando o que eu não pratiquei/ Making up something I hadn’t done
Pois é/ That’s right
Só deus sabe o quanto amei/ Only god knows how much I loved
Por te amar tanto chorei/ For loving you how I cried
E chorando levo a coisa até o fim/ And crying I take the thing to its end
Não sei como foste acreditar/ I don’t know how you came to believe
Em mentira tão vulgar/ In such a vulgar lie
De um sujeito tão vulgar também/ From such a vulgar guy what’s more
Sofri a maior decepção/ I’ve suffered the greatest disillusion
Tentarei te esquecer/ I’ll try to forget you
Pois te amar foi ilusão/ Because loving you was an illusion
Não sei porque foste derrubar/ I don’t know why you went and knocked down
O castelo que eu fiz/ The castle I built
Em meu castelo era tão feliz/ In my castle I was (or you were) so happy


Lyrics from “Recado” by Paulinho da Viola and Casquinha (1965)

Leva um recado/Take a note
A quem me deu tanto dissabor/ To the one who caused me such bitterness
Diz que eu vivo bem melhor assim/ Say that I live much better like this
E que no passado fui um sofredor/ And that in the past I was a wretch
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
{bis}

Vai dizer à minha ex-amada/ Go and tell my ex-love
Que é feliz meu coração/ That my heart is happy
Mas que nas minhas madrugadas/ But that in my late nights
Eu não esqueço dela, não/ I haven’t forgotten her
Leva um recado!/ Take a note


Lyrics from “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” by Cartola and Élton Medeiros (1963)

A sorrir/ Smiling
Eu pretendo levar a vida/ I intend to lead my life
Pois chorando/ Because crying
Eu vi a mocidade/ I saw my boyhood
Perdida/ Lost

Finda a tempestade/ Once the storm’s over
O sol nascerá/ The sun will come out
Finda esta saudade/ Once this saudade is over
Hei de ter outro alguém para amar/ I’ll find someone else to love


Lyrics from “Jurar Com Lágrimas” by Paulinho da Viola (1965)

Jurar com lágrimas/ Swearing with tears
Que me ama/ That you love me
Não adianta nada/ Won’t get you anywhere
Eu não vou acreditar/ I won’t believe it
É melhor nos separar/ It’s better for us to split up

Não pode haver felicidade/ There can’t be bliss
Se não há sinceridade/ If there’s no sincerity
Dentro do nosso lar/ In our home
Se aquele amor não morreu/ If that love hasn’t died
Não precisa me enganar/ You don’t need to try to fool me
Que seu coração é meu/ That your heart is mine


Lyrics from “Rosa de Ouro” by Paulinho da Viola, Élton Medeiros and Hermínio Bello de Carvalho (1965)

Ela tem uma rosa de ouro nos cabelos/ She has a golden rose in her hair
E outras mais tão graciosas;/ And others too so lovely
Ela tem outras rosas que são os meus desvelos/ She has other roses that are my devotion
E seu olhar faz de mim um cravo ciumento/ And her gaze turns me into a jealous thorn
Em seu jardim de rosas/ In her garden of roses
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada em meu peito!/ To have this rose planted in my heart
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada no fundo do peito!…/ To have this rose planted deep in my heart…

 

— Commentary —

Screenshot 2018-08-09 at 1.10.29 PM
Paulinho da Viola and Élton MedeirosPhoto via Instituto Moreira Salles.

I translated all of these together because they’re all recorded as a single medley track on the album Samba na Madrugada (1966). In April 1966, just before leaving for the First Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros hurriedly recorded the albumwhich became an enduring samba classic.  (It was supposed to be called Na Madrugada, but the record company misprinted the name, and it stuck.)

According to Élton Medeiros, in an interview recorded in 1985 for the General Archive of the City of Rio de Janeiro, he and Paulinho recorded the album in a single night on the eve of their trip to Africa, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Medeiros laughed as he recalled the other musicians joking that “Benil [Santos, the album’s producer] thinks you’re going to die on that plane,” because Santos was in such a rush to record everything before they left.

Medeiros said that by the middle of the night he was exhausted, and the album included moments of him falling asleep, including at the beginning of the first song in this ‘potpourri,’ or medley, “Mascarada.” He said he could be heard nodding off as the song began but that they were in too much of a rush to do a retake.

In 1968, the renowned music critic Luiz Carlos Maciel wrote in the Rio daily Correio da Manhã that the album transmitted a “pleasant spontaneity,” with performances offering the “freshness of improvisation”; Medeiros’s description of the recording session helps to explain that vibe. Maciel praised Samba na Madrugada as a model samba album, beginning, “O samba carioca has its traditions. And almost all of them can be found on this LP by Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros.” He wrote that the collection of sambas revealed “roots on the morro” — the favela — “but a trunk nurtured by the asphalt,” or more refined city below.

Medeiros recalled that he and Paulinho were in a bit of a fight at the time with Zé Kéti, with whom they had been performing and recording as A Voz do Morro since they all began to frequent Cartola’s restaurant Zicartola together in 1964. So they abandoned A Voz do Morro and decided, upon Benil Santos’s urging, to record an album on their own.

The trombonist on the album is Raul de Barros, who also traveled with the Brazilian delegation to the festival in Senegal. Élton Medeiros played trombone as a teenager, and had always been a vocal admirer of the instrument. He stopped playing when the friend whose trombone he had borrowed asked for it back; after that, he said he went into a botequim and bought a matchbox — a cheaper and more portable instrument. He can be heard playing matchbox on this recording.

A couple notes on the other songs here: “Recado” was the first samba Paulinho da Viola played when he went in late 1964 to Portela Samba School. When the composers there asked him to show them one of his compositions, he played the first part of “Recado” twice and recalls that Casquinha jumped in with the second part on the spot.

Cartola and Élton Medeiros also composed “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” on the spot when challenged to compose a samba one night at the house on Rua das Andradas that prefigured Zicartola.

Main source for this post:  Élton Medeiros depoimento para o Projeto Memória Músical Carioca, Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 4 July 1985.

Rosa de Hiroshima

Lyrics from “Rosa de Hiroshima” by Vinicius de Moraes, music by  Gérson Conrad; released by Secos & Molhados (1973)

Pensem nas criancas // Think of the children
Mudas, Telepáticas // Mute, telepathic
Pensem nas meninas // Think of the girls
Cegas, inexatas // Blind, inexact (amiss)
Pensem nas mulheres // Think of the women
Rotas, alteradas // Torn, altered
Pensem nas feridas // Think of the wounds
Como rosas cálidas // Like burning roses
Mas oh! Nao se esqueçam // But oh! Don’t forget
Da rosa da rosa // The rose of roses
Da rosa de Hiroshima // The rose of Hiroshima
A rosa hereditária // The hereditary rose
A rosa radioativa // The radioactive rose
Estúpida e inválida // Senseless and invalid
A rosa com cirrose // The rose with cirrhosis
A anti-rosa atomica // The atomic anti-rose
Sem cor, sem perfume // Without color, without fragrance
Sem rosa, sem nada // Without rose, without anything

— Commentary —

hiroshima_After via Atlantic via U.S. National Archives
Hiroshima in the aftermath of the attack. Image via The Atlantic .

In the early morning of 6 August 1945, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, lifted off a runway on Tinian Island in the Pacific. Piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, who had named the giant Superfortress after his mother, the Enola Gay carried a ten-thousand-pound atomic bomb known as “Little Boy.” At 8:15 A.M., the crew of the Enola Gay covered their eyes with dark glasses and the bombardier, Thomas Ferebee, released the huge orange and black bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, a city of 250,000 people, many of whom were starting their last day on earth. The bomb exploded over the city with a brilliant flash of purple light, followed by a deafening blast and a powerful shock wave that heated the air as if expanded. A searing fireball eventually enveloped the area around ground zero, temperatures rose to approximate those on the surface of the sun, and a giant mushroom cloud roiled up from the city like an angry gray ghost. Within seconds Hiroshima was destroyed and half of its population was dead or dying. Three days later, a second atomic bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing more than 60,000 people. –Michael Hogan: Hiroshima in History and Memory

Vinicius de Moraes composed this poem in 1954. Nearly twenty years later, Gérson Conrad of Secos & Molhados set the poem to music. Secos & Molhados released “Rosa de Hiroshima” on their self-titled debut album, and Ney Matogrosso’s piercing rendition seared the song into popular memory across Brazil.

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Rio de Janeiro’s Diário da Noite from 7 August 1945 announced “Revolution in Methods of War!” A front-page article on the attack described the atomic bomb as “the most terrifying discovery of recent times,” and Hiroshima as “the Japanese city that had the bad luck of being the first to vanish from the map as a consequence of the effects of the atomic bomb.” Image via Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional.

The horror of the atomic bomb was incomprehensible in Japan and around the world.  The scale of the attack was so unfathomable that the Japanese reacted almost as if they’d been struck by a natural disaster, rather than a man-made atrocity released by bombardier Thomas Ferebee at 8:15 that morning.  No prior conceptions or language existed to grapple with the scale of the attack, so reckoning largely came, when it came, through the arts.

The mushroom cloud of the bomb spread as a rose bud blooms and expands, and Vinicius de Moraes treated the bomb as the “anti-rose” in this poem.

Floor of Damaged Bank Building_Oct 6 1945
A woman lies with her child on the floor of a ruined bank building in Hiroshima, 6 October 1945. Image via The Atlantic.

The first verses focus on the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of the bomb: Rollicking children were rendered mute, killed or surviving without words to express or come to terms with the experience. Girls were blinded by the searing flash;  “inexact” evokes incompleteness, or something amiss.  (I didn’t want to post too gruesome images here, but some of these seem representative of what Vinicius mentions.)

“Rotas, alteradas” can also be interpreted as “rotas alteradas,” or paths altered.

The second part of the lyrics discuss the “senseless” bomb. “Hereditary” rose may refer to the fact that survivors were “presumed to carry the curse of the bombs in their blood,” and were shunned in Japan. Invalid can be interpreted as not valid — out of bounds, unwarranted — or “invalid” in the sense of disabled, as the survivors were left both psychologically and physically. The Japanese government essentially ignored the bomb survivors until November 1953, when it established a research council to conduct surveys of survivors. The news surrounding this movement may have inspired the poem, written shortly thereafter. This rose is fatally flawed, sick with cirrhosis like the survivors who developed cirrhosis of the liver from radiation poisoning.

If the rose represents beauty, passion, and vigor, the bomb was the “anti-rose,” like an anti-christ.

 

 

 

Main source for this post: Hiroshima in History and Memory, ed. Mark Hogan