Lupicínio Rodrigues: “Eu não sou de reclamar” – “Nervos de aço” – “Não sou louco” – “Vingança” – “Caixa de Ódio” – “Cadeira Vazia”

“Eu não sou de reclamar” (1952)


Eu não sou de reclamar // I’m not one to complain
Eu não sou // I’m really not
Mas o que estou sofrendo // But what I’m suffering
É demais // Is just too much
Nos lugares onde eu vou // In the places I go
Quem conhece quem eu sou // Anyone who knows who I am
Diz que sou o mais covarde dos mortais // Says I’m the most cowardly of all mortals
E queriam que eu matasse // And they thought I should kill
O crime não compensa // But crime doesn’t pay
Só Deus dá a sentença // Only God gets the final say
ao pecador. // over the sinner
Se eu matasse não podia esperar // If I killed, I wouldn’t be able to look forward to
Ver algum dia // Some day seeing
As lágrima cruéis do meu amor // The cruel tears of my love

Se queriam que eu matasse // If they wanted me to kill
O crime não compensa // Crime doesn’t pay
Só Deus dá a sentença  // Only God gets the final say
ao pecador // over the sinner


“Nervos de aço” (1947)

Você sabe o que é ter um amor, meu senhor? // Do you know what it is to have a love, my fellow?
Ter loucura por uma mulher // Be mad about a woman
E depois encontrar esse amor, meu senhor // And then find that woman, my fellow
Ao lado de um tipo qualquer? // By the side of some nobody?
Você sabe o que é ter um amor, meu senhor // Do you know what it is to have a love, my fellow?
E por ele quase morrer // And nearly die for that love
E depois encontrá-lo em um braço // And then find her in an arm
Que nem um pedaço do seu pode ser?// That can’t be even a little bit yours?
Há pessoas de nervos de aço // There are people with nerves of steel
Sem sangue nas veias e sem coração // Without blood in their veins, without hearts
Mas não sei se passando o que eu passo // But I don’t know if, going through what I’m going through
Talvez não lhes venha qualquer reação // It’s possible they wouldn’t have a reaction
Eu não sei se o que trago no peito // I don’t know if what I have in my chest
É ciúme, é despeito, amizade ou horror // Is jealousy, spite, friendship or horror
Eu só sei é que quando a vejo // I only know that when I see her
Me dá um desejo de morte ou de dor // It fills me with a desire for death or pain


“Não sou louco” (1950)


Eles me chamam de louco // They call me crazy
Porque eu bebo, senhor // Because I drink, oh lord
Depois que bebo saio na rua // And after I drink I go out in the street
Gritando por meu amor // Screaming for my love
Louco, não senhor!  // Crazy, no sir!
Eu não sou louco! // I’m not crazy!
É que um coração magoado // It’s just that an injured heart
Não fala baixo nem bebe pouco // Doesn’t speak softly or drink lightly
Se eles soubessem a minha situação // If they only knew my situation
O quanto me custa aturar o meu coração… // How hard it is to stand my heart
Iriam compreender que eu não sou louco! // They would understand that I’m not crazy
É que um coração magoado // It’s just that an injured heart
Não fala baixo nem bebe pouco // Doesn’t speak softly or drink lightly

“Vingança” (1951)

Eu gostei tanto, // I was so, so pleased
Tanto quando me contaram // When they told me
Que lhe encontraram // That they found her
Bebendo e chorando // Drinking and crying
Na mesa de um bar // At a bar table
E que quando os amigos do peito // And when close friends
Por mim perguntaram // Asked about me
Um soluço cortou sua voz, // A sob strangled her voice
Não lhe deixou falar.// Didn’t let her speak
Eu gostei tanto,// I was so, so pleased
Tanto, quando me contaram // When they told me
Que tive mesmo de fazer esforço // That I actually had to make an effort
Prá ninguém notar // For no one to notice
O remorso talvez seja a causa // Maybe remorse is the cause
Do seu desespero // Of her despondency
Ela deve estar bem consciente // She’s got to be well aware
Do que praticou, // Of what she’s done
Me fazer passar tanta vergonha // Humiliating me
Com um companheiro // With a friend
E a vergonha // And shame
É a herança maior que meu pai me deixou; // Is the greatest inheritance my father left me
Mas, enquanto houver força em meu peito // But as long as there’s strength in my chest
Eu nao quero mais nada // I want nothing more –
Só vingança, vingança, vingança // Only revenge, revenge, revenge
Aos santos clamar // Imploring the saints
Ela há de rolar como as pedras // She’s sure to roll like the stones
Que rolam na estrada // That roll down the road
Sem ter nunca um cantinho de seu // Without ever having their own little home
Pra poder descansar // To take rest in


“Caixa de ódio” (first recording – 1966)

Tem coisas que as vezes tão fácil julgamos // There are things we sometimes think are so easy
Que até nos achamos capaz de fazer // That we even feel we could do them
Até num coqueiro as vezes trepamos depois não achamos por onde descer // We even climb up a coconut tree, and then can’t find the way down
Um arranhãozinho uma simples batida //A little scratch, a light blow
Tem feito ferida capaz de matar // Have caused wounds that can kill
Por isso que eu sempre vos disse querida // That’s why I’ve always told you, dear
Que a gente na vida deve se cuidar // That in life, we need to take care
Você por exemplo jamais pensaria // You, for example, would never have thought
Que uma fantasia em um carnaval // That a Carnaval capriccio
Um simples prazer de uma noite de orgia // The simple pleasure of a night of revelry
Pudesse algum dia causar tanto mal // Could cause such ruin one day
Matar um amor que já tem tantos anos // Killing a love that’s lasted so many years
Criar um inferno dentro do seu lar // Creating a hell in your own home
Fazer do meu peito uma caixa de ódio // Making, of my chest, a box of scorn
Como um coração que não quer perdoar // Like a heart that won’t forgive  (2x)

“Cadeira vazia” (Lupicínio Rodrigues & Alcides Gonçalves, 1950)

Entra meu amor fique a vontade // Come in, my love, make yourself at home
E diz com sinceridade o que desejas de mim // And tell me, with sincerity, what you want from me
Entra podes entrar a casa é tua // Come in, you can come in, the house is yours
Já que cansaste de viver na rua // Now that you’ve grown weary of living a vagrant life
E os teus sonhos chegaram ao fim // And your dreams have come to an end
Eu sofri demais quando partiste // I suffered so much when you left
Passei tantas horas tristes // I spent so many morose hours
Que não gosto de lembrar esse dia // That I don’t like to remember that day
Mas de uma coisa pode ter certeza // But you can be sure of one thing
Teu lugar aqui na minha mesa // You have a place here at my table
Tua cadeira ainda está vazia // Your chair is still empty
Tu es a filha pródiga que volta // You’re the prodigal daughter who returns
Procurando em minha porta // Seeking at my door
O que o mundo não te deu // What the world didn’t provide you
E faz de conta que eu sou o teu paizinho // And you make believe I’m your daddy
Que há tanto tempo aqui ficou sozinho // Who’s  been alone here for so long
A esperar por um carinho teu // Waiting for your love
Voltaste estás bem, estou contente // You’ve come back, you’re well- I’m content
Só me encontraste um pouco diferente // You’ve just found me a little different
Vou te falar de todo coração // I’ll tell you, with all my heart
Não te darei carinho nem afeto // I won’t give you love or affection
Mas pra te abrigar podes ocupar meu teto // But for shelter you may stay under my roof
Pra te alimentar podes comer meu pão // And for nourishment you may eat my bread (2x)

— Commentary —

Lupicinio is still known as the
Lupicínio is still known as the “Criador do dor-de-cotovelo” – the creator – or God – of songs about jealousy and heartache.

Lupicínio Rodrigues was born in the poor neighborhood of Ilhota, Porto Alegre, on a rainy September 16, 1914. He was an unlikely dark-skinned samba composer in the overwhelmingly white southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, far-removed from the samba stronghold of Rio de Janeiro.  And while his soft-spoken, pleasant demeanour won him many friends, but it was the bitter broken-heartedness of his lyrics that won him fans across Brazil beginning in the late 1930s. His lyrics were so rawly evocative of the writhing of love gone bad that he earned the eternal appellation of “God of dor-de-cotovelo”  — the sentiment that translates literally to elbow pain, and encapsulates the mixture of disconsolateness,  jealousy, spite and confused affection that tends to follow romantic disillusionments. (Elbow pain because of too much time hunched on one’s elbows, head in hands.)

As I wrote in this previous post, through Lupicínio, the expression came to define a musical genre that expresses and even aggrandizes such suffering. Carlos Rennó says in his profile of the singer, “It’s been said that in all of Lupicínio Rodrigues’s songs, he either betrays or is betrayed.” And according to Lupicínio, whose commentary was published in Augusto de Campos‘s  book Balanço da Bossa, everything he sang about was “the truth – my life.”

Lup_PortoAlegreIndeed, in the 1970s, Lupicínio said he wasn’t even sure why he earned his nickname  but he remembered that when he had a program on Radio Record, everyone would be in tears when he finished, so the host naturally began to refer to him as “god of the dor-de-cotovelo.” Again, his measured, no-frills explanation was that he “was, in fact, suffering a lot at the time.”

Lupicínio’s first hit was the 1938 samba “Se acaso você chegasse,” which also happens to be one of his few more upbeat sambas. The song reportedly made its way from Porto Alegre to Rio de Janeiro by the mouths of sailors, and Lupicínio used to say he was shocked when he heard his song in Porto Alegre, floating in on the radio waves from Rio de Janeiro. A year later, suffering from breakup, Lupicínio went to spend a few months in Rio de Janeiro, where he briefly became a fixture in the city’s samba nightlife, and got to know singers like Francisco Alves, who would go on to record many of his greatest successes.

Lupicínio liked to say there were two types of dor-de-cotovelo: State and Federal. “State” dor-de-cotovelo came when you met someone for a “love for a night,” and then felt longing for them later on; federal was something deeper — the pain “we never forget, that we carry with us forever”: He says “Vingança” expresses an “eternal dor-de-cotovelo” of his. It’s also the kind of pain he expresses in “Nervos de aço,” which he wrote after finding his first fiancée in the arms of another man.

“Cadeira vazia” was written, he recounted, for a girl who had left Rio Grande do Sul to go to Rio de Janeiro but wrote a letter (to him, presumably) saying how much she missed home; he responded with the song.

He was such a specialist in his art of this kind of southern Brazilian blues that even more than forty years after his death, and with only about one hundred compositions to his name, his works continue to be re-interpreted and released by contemporary Brazilian singers like Arrigo Barnabé, who released the album Caixa de ódio, with only Lupicínio’s songs, and Arnoldo Antunes, who released Lupicínio’s “Judiária” in a hard-rock adaptation.  Among the “old guard,” two of the most celebrated and appropriate singers of Lupicínio’s songs are Elza Soares, who did a Lupicínio tour in 2014, for his centenary, and Jamelão. The withering raw emotion of Lupicínio’s songs went out of vogue during the age of Bossa Nova and the politically wrought years of the dictatorship, but has swung back in full force, a tribute to Lupicinío’s expert expression of the timeless traits of romantic suffering.

On August 27, 1974, Lupicínio  – known affectionately as Lupi – died from heart failure. It was a dreary, rainy day, similar to the day he was born. He was 59.

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Sem Ilusão

Lyrics from “Sem Ilusão” by Elton Medeiros and Antonio Valente (1977)

No carnaval não vou querer me fantasiar// This Carnival, I don’t want to put on a costume
Não vou querer me vestir de rei// I don’t want to dress up as a king
Não quero mais colorir a dor// I no longer wish to gloss over the pain
E se alguém quiser me aplaudir// And if anyone wants to applaud me
Vai ter que ser assim como eu sou// It’s gonna have to be for me, as I am
Não quer dizer que não vou nem brincar// I don’t mean to say that I’m not going to revel
Só não quero é enganar o meu coração// I just don’t want to fool my heart
No Carnaval, não vou mais sair fingindo//During Carnival, I’ll no longer go out pretending
Que passo a minha vida inteira a cantar// That I spend my whole life singing
Eu vou me divertir, na certa eu vou sambar// I’ll have fun, sure, I’ll samba, no doubt
Mas dessa vez a ilusão não vai me pegar// But this time, illusion won’t get the best of me
No Carnaval eu sempre sai sorrindo// During Carnival, I’ve always gone out smiling
Me divertindo só pra desabafar// Having fun just to lighten my heart
Três dias pra sorrir, um ano pra chorar// Three days to smile, a year to cry
Mas dessa vez a ilusão não vai me pegar// But this time, illusion won’t get the best of me

— Interpretation —

1966: Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros practice with Clementina de Jesus for their show in Dakar, Senegal, at the first World Festival of Black Arts. Paulinho recalls he and Elton only played atabaque - no guitar or cavaquinho - and that the show was a huge success.
1966: Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros practice with Clementina de Jesus for their show in Dakar, Senegal, at the first World Festival of Black Arts. Paulinho recalls he and Elton only played atabaque – no guitar or cavaquinho – and that the show was a huge success.
Elton Medeiros on the matchbox and Paulinho da Viola on the guitar, cover of their 1968 album Samba na Madrugada
Elton Medeiros on the matchbox and Paulinho da Viola on the guitar, cover of their 1968 album Samba na Madrugada

Elton Medeiros (born 22 July 1930, Glória, Rio de Janeiro) has never been keen on playing the role people expect of him. He’s been known since the 1960s as a master of rhythm on the matchbox, for instance, but never liked posing with the diminutive instrument, saying those kinds of pictures and the like contributed to the “folklorization” of samba: “A lot of people think that to make samba you have to be a bar fly. I know how to beat a rhythm on a matchbox, but I don’t play up that role just to live up to what people expect of a sambista.” This song takes a similarly rebellious tone: Why do I have to pretend I have no cares in the world, and fool even myself, just because it’s Carnival? And it came at a time when a lot of sambistas were particularly down on Carnival, as Elton hints at in the introduction to the song on the 1977 album Os Quatro Grandes do Samba.

On the album,  Guilherme de Brito asks Elton Medeiros  why he, who had founded three samba schools, wasn’t parading with any. Medeiros responds, “It’s true, Guilherme, lately I’ve really lamented what’s been happening with Carnival.”

The three samba schools he founded were: GRES Tupi de Brás de Pina [late 1940s], GRES Unidos de Lucas [1967] and GRANES Quilombo [1976], which was founded essentially out of protest of the direction samba schools had taken. In 1977, Elton indeed marched — or maybe danced is more appropriate — in Quilombo’s first Carnival parade.

The sentiment expressed in this song reflects the widespread feeling of dejection that had taken hold among most “old-guard” samba composers by the mid to late 1970s: Most sambistas in Rio thought leadership at samba schools had become too autocratic and profit-driven, contributing to the commoditization of samba by seeking only sambas that would sell well. And any profits stayed in the pockets of outsiders who had taken power at the schools, or was used to pay for expensive artists to produce ever more extravagant Carnival floats and costumes.

Paulinho da Viola in the first Quilombo Carnival parade.  I wasn't able to find images of Elton Medeiros in the parade.
Paulinho da Viola in the first Quilombo Carnival parade. I wasn’t able to find images of Elton Medeiros in the parade.

In protest — particularly of the situation at Portela — in 1975-1976, together with Candeia and Wilson Moreira (both Portela), and Nei Lopes (Salgueiro) — Elton Madeiros founded Grêmio Recreativo de Arte Negra e Samba Quilombo.  Candeia had come up with the idea for the new samba school after growing totally fed up with Portela, as this post explains.

Elton Medeiros was never a member of Rio’s biggest schools like Portela  and Mangueira; in the 1970s he was a composer with GRES Unidos de Lucas. But Elton felt close to Portela because the school had chosen him and his line of composers at Unidos de Lucas to be their “patrons.” Medeiros also worked closely with several of Portela’s most revered composers, including Zé Kéti, Paulinho da Viola, and Candeia, along with Mangueirenses like Cartola — with whom he composed one of the best-loved samba classics of all time (and one of the first entries on this blog), “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir),” Nelson Cavaquinho, and Nelson Sargento.

Conjunto Voz do Morro was one of the groups formed at Zicartola, in an effort to give more publicity to the greatest talents in samba do morro.
Conjunto Voz do Morro was one of the groups formed at Zicartola, in an effort to give more publicity to the greatest talents in samba do morro. L-R: Paulinho da Viola; Anescarzinho do Salgueiro; (???); Zé Cruz do Chapéu de Palha; Elton Medeiros; Zé Keti; Jair do Cavaquinho.

Medeiros was born in the Glória neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, where he lived until the family moved to Brás de Pina when he was seven. Just a year later he reportedly began composing sambas with neighborhood friends, and as a teenager he learned to play trombone and saxophone at school.  When he was about 20 he met Zé Kéti,  and in the early 1960s he became a regular at Zicartola — the restaurant Cartola ran with his wife Zica from 1963 – 1965 —  where he sang and “swapped ideas” (from the Portuguese trocar ideia) with Rio’s samba and cultural elite.

In 1965, Élton Medeiros began singing with the groups Voz do Morro and Rosa de Ouro, with Zé Kéti (Voz do Morro), Paulinho da Viola, Nelson Sargento, Anescarzinho do Salgueiro, Jair do Cavaquinho, Zé Cruz (Voz do Morro) and Oscar Bigode (Voz do Morro). Both shows aimed to introduce the most promising "sambistas de morro" to a wider audience and give them the opportunity to record their songs.
In 1965, Élton Medeiros began singing with the groups Voz do Morro and Rosa de Ouro

Two groups that propelled the  Zicartola set to samba stardom were born from the encontros at the restaurant:  In 1965, Elton joined Herminio Bello de Carvalho’s musical show Rosa de Ouro. Soon after, upon request from the record label MusiDisc, Zé Kéti formed the group Conjunto A Voz do Morro with performers from Rosa de Ouro:  Jair Costa (Jair do Cavaquinho), Paulinho da Viola, Elton Medeiros, Anescarzinho do Salgueiro, Oscar Bigode, Zé Cruz – who played percussion on a straw hat, Nelson Sargento (for the second album), and of course, Zé Kéti. Rosa de Ouro recorded two albums (“Rosa de Ouro” and “Rosa de Ouro II“), and Voz do Morro recorded three, “Roda de Samba,” “Roda de Samba II,” and “Os Sambistas.”

Zicartola, with Nelson Cavaquinho on the guitar and Zé Kéti standing.
Zicartola, with Nelson Cavaquinho on the guitar and Zé Kéti standing.

In 1968, Elton and Paulinho da Viola recorded the beautiful album “Samba na Madrugada,” with sambas composed with Cartola, Mauro Duarte, Zé Keti, Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, and Paulinho and Elton together.  1973, Elton recorded his first self-titled solo album, with his classics “Pressentimento” (with Herminio Bello de Carvalho), “Mascarada” (with Zé Kéti), and “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir).” Four years later, with Candeia, Nelson Cavaquinho, and Guilherme de Brito, he recorded the historic album that included “Sem Ilusão.”

(The date is wrong on the YouTube video):

Here is footage of a Rosa de Ouro reunion in 1980, with each sambista contributing to a pot-pourri with a samba he composed:

Elton Medeiros with friend and partner Paulinho da Viola. Medeiros was a master of the matchbox but said he didn't like posing with the "instrument" because he thought those kinds of pictures contributed to the folklorization of samba.
Elton Medeiros with friend and partner Paulinho da Viola. Medeiros was a master of the matchbox but said he didn’t like posing with the “instrument” because he thought those kinds of pictures contributed to the folklorization of samba.

 

 

 

Foi um rio que passou em minha vida

Lyrics from “Foi um rio que passou em minha vida” by Paulinho da Viola (1969)

If some day my heart is consulted
To find out if it ever went astray
It will be tough to deny
My heart has a compulsion for love; love isn’t easy to find
The mark of my dashed dreams is deep, is deep
Only a love can erase it…
And yet, aiii, and yet, there’s a special story
That in just a short time left an everlasting imprint on my heart
It was one day during Carnival
I was weighed down with a certain sorrow, not thinking of new love
When someone I don’t remember announced: Portela, Portela
And the samba that brought daybreak captured my heart
Ah, my Portela, when I saw you go by
I felt my heart race — my whole body enraptured
My joy return
I can’t define that blue
It wasn’t of the sky
It wasn’t of the sea
It was a river that passed through my life
And my heart let itself be carried away
It was a river that passed through my life
And my heart let itself be carried away

— Interpretation —

Odeon EP, 1969
Odeon EP, 1969
Paulinho da Viola saw the title "Por onde andou meu coração" (Where my heart has gone, roughly) and was inspired to compose this samba, which begins with musings about his heart having gone astray.
Paulinho da Viola saw the title “Por onde andou meu coração” (Where my heart has gone, roughly) and was inspired to compose this samba, which begins with musings about his heart having gone astray.

Walking down Rua México in downtown Rio one day in 1969, Paulinho da Viola looked in the window of a book shop and a title jumped out at him: “Por Onde Andou Meu Coração” (Where My Heart Has Gone, roughly). He liked something about the phrase, and it stuck in with him.

Paulinho had recently composed the lyrics for a tremendous hit for his rival samba school Mangueira, “Sei lá, Mangueira,” and he was feeling a bit guilty about the success of this samba. So as he recounts, when he got home that day, he started playing around with his guitar and composed this samba, using the book’s title as inspiration for this beautiful song dedicated to his beloved samba school Portela.  Portelenses fell in love with the song immediately, and it has become his best known and loved composition of all time. (For more on the story behind the song, see this post on “Sei lá, Mangueira.”)

Paulinho recalls that he initially wrote the samba with a different melody, which he explains and sings for what he says is the first time in this recent video of his show in Circo Voador.  Paulinho da Viola started singing “la-iá, la-iá, la-iá la-iá” at the end of the song after hearing Jair Rodrigues’s recording, and he recalls Jair always joked that this meant he was Paulinho’s partner in the composition.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Se um dia
Meu coração for consultado
Para saber se andou errado
Será difícil negar
Meu coração
Tem mania de amor
Amor não é fácil de achar
A marca dos meus desenganos
Ficou, ficou
Só um amor pode apagar
A marca dos meus desenganos
Ficou, ficou
Só um amor pode apagar…

Porém! Ai porém!
Há um caso diferente
Que marcou num breve tempo
Meu coração para sempre
Era dia de Carnaval
Carregava uma tristeza
Não pensava em novo amor
Quando alguém
Que não me lembro anunciou
Portela, Portela
O samba trazendo alvorada
Meu coração conquistou…
Ah! Minha Portela!
Quando vi você passar
Senti meu coração apressado
Todo o meu corpo tomado
Minha alegria voltar
Não posso definir
Aquele azul
Não era do céu
Nem era do mar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar!