Meus vinte anos

Lyrics from “Meus vinte anos” by Wilson Batista and Silvio Caldas (1942)



Good Audio Version (Silvio Caldas)

In women’s eyes, in the mirror in my room
Is where I see my age
The portrait in the living room makes me remember achingly my youth
Life for me has been so wretched, only bitter disenchantment
Ay, I’d give everything to be able to go back to being twenty (repeat)

You left in my life the vivid shadow of tremendous yearning
Leaving me, you ended up showing me the counterpoint, killing my faith
And today disillusioned – I’ve suffered a lot –
Full of bitter disenchantment
Ay, I’d give everything to be able to go back to being twenty

— Interpretation —

Wilson-Batista
Wilson Batista, looking dapper c. 1933.

In this samba, Wilson Batista aches over getting older, lamenting that his appearance continues to diverge from that of the portrait in the living room, and that women’s eyes perhaps don’t shine as brightly when they see him.

Batista was a malandrostyle samba composer — an unapologetic scoundrel sort, known for his impassioned defense of waywardness in a battle he fought in samba songs with the more refined bohemian Noel Rosa. (Rosa contended that malandro sambistas should  toss out their razor blades, stop dragging their wood-soled shoes, and basically get over themselves. You can read about the feud here.)

Batista wrote this song when he was twenty-nine — an age when most would scoff at someone for pining for their youthful days of yore. But maybe he knew his lifestyle did not promote longevity; he died at 58.

The theme of fleeting youth is a universal one, and the song was one of Wilson Batista’s greatest successes as a lyricist. Silvio Caldas wrote the melody and recorded the samba in 1942, and the song was a hit throughout the following year.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Nos olhos das mulheres
No espelho do meu quarto
É que eu vejo a minha idade
O retrato na sala
Faz lembrar com saudade
A minha mocidade

A vida para mim tem sido tão ruim
Só desenganos
Ai, eu daria tudo
Para poder voltar
Aos meus vinte anos.

Deixaste em minha vida
A sombra colorida
De uma saudade imensa
Deixando-me ficaste
Mostrando-me o contraste
Matando a minha crença
E hoje desiludido
Muito tenho sofrido
Cheio de desenganos
Ai, eu daria tudo
Para poder voltar
Aos meus vinte anos.

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

Viola Enluarada

Lyrics from “Viola Enluarada” by Marcos Valle and Paulo Sérgio Valle (1968)



Good Audio Version (Marcos Valle and Milton Nascimento)

The hand that plays a guitar, if necessary, makes war
Kills the world, wounds the earth.
The voice that sings a song, if necessary, sings a hymn
Exalts death.
Viola on a moonlit night in the backlands is like a sword
Hope for vengeance.
The same foot that dances a samba, if necessary, goes to combat
Capoeira
He who has a companion at night knows that peace is fleeting
To defend her he gets up and screams:  I’ll go!
Hand, guitar, song and sword
And moonlit viola
Through the countryside and city
Flag bearer, capoeira, marching they go on singing,
Liberty, liberty, liberty…

— Interpretation —

Album cover for Viola Enluarada (1968)
Album cover for Viola Enluarada (1968)

The viola referred to in this song is different from the violin-like instrument that most English speakers know as a viola. In Brazilian music, viola almost always refers to a plucked twelve-string acoustic  guitar that’s associated with the countryside.  “Companion” is used in the feminine, and “to defend her he gets up and screams…” could refer to both the companion and peace.

In 1967, Marcos Valle was in New York recording the album Samba 68. It was his longest stay yet in the United States, and he was looking on from afar during a particularly dark time in Brazil, as the military dictatorship that had seized power in 1964 tightened its grip over society in the months prior to the decree of AI-5. Yearning for home, Marcos composed this distinctly Brazilian melody. When he returned to Brazil, he brought the tune to his eldest brother and partner, Paulo Sérgio Valle, who wrote the lyrics.  Soon after, Marcos met Milton Nascimento at Tom Jobim‘s house in Leblon, and the two sang the song together. They made a perfect pair; the song suited Milton – it even seemed like it could be one of his own.

Among protest songs from the 1960s and 1970s, “Viola Enluarada” stands out for having not only a powerful political message but also a rich, intricate melody. (Many protest songs, perhaps most notoriously “Caminhando/Pra não dizer que não falei das flores” by Geraldo Vandré, were known for having rousing lyrics set to very simple melodies.)  Marcos and Milton released “Viola Enluarada” – with an arrangement by Dori Caymmi  – as a single in 1968.  By that time, stores already had long waiting lists for the single, which the tremendously popular group Quarteto em Cy had been singing in their shows. The song also became the title track for Marcos’s next album, and in the early 70s was adopted as a sort of hymn by the Araguaia guerrillas, who had taken up arms against the military dictatorship.

Lyrics in Portuguese

A mão que toca um violão
Se for preciso faz a guerra,
Mata o mundo, fere a terra.
A voz que canta uma canção
Se for preciso canta um hino,
Louva à morte.
Viola em noite enluarada
No sertão é como espada,
Esperança de vingança.
O mesmo pé que dança um samba
Se preciso vai à luta,
Capoeira.
Quem tem de noite a companheira
Sabe que a paz é passageira,
Prá defendê-la se levanta
E grita: Eu vou!
Mão, violão, canção e espada
E viola enluarada
Pelo campo e cidade,
Porta bandeira, capoeira,
Desfilando vão cantando
Liberdade.
Quem tem de noite a companheira
Sabe que a paz é passageira,
Prá defendê-la se levanta
E grita: Eu vou!
Porta bandeira, capoeira,
Desfilando vão cantando
Liberdade.
Liberdade, liberdade, liberdade…

Main sources for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello,  and Songbook: Marcos Valle, by Almir Chediak.