Refém da Solidão

Lyrics from “Refém da Solidão” by Baden Powell & Paulo César Pinheiro (1970)

Quem da solidão fez seu bem // Anyone who’s chosen solitude for their darling
Vai terminar seu refém // Will end up its hostage
E a vida pára também // And life stops too
Não vai nem vem // Neither comes nor goes
Vira uma certa paz // Just becomes some kind of peace
Que não faz nem desfaz // That neither does nor undoes
Tornando as coisas banais // Making things so mundane
E o ser humano incapaz de prosseguir //And the human being unable to carry on
Sem ter pra onde ir // With nowhere to go
Infelizmente eu nada fiz // Unfortunately I did nothing
Não fui feliz nem infeliz // I was neither happy nor unhappy
Eu fui somente um aprendiz // I was merely an apprentice
Daquilo que eu não quis // Of that which I never wished for
Aprendiz de morrer // Apprentice of dying
Mas pra aprender a morrer // But to learn to die
Foi necessário viver // It was necessary to live
E eu vivi // And I lived
Mas nunca descobri // But I never discovered
Se essa vida existe // If this life really exists
Ou essa gente é que insiste // Or if it’s just those people who insist
Em dizer que é triste ou que é feliz // On saying they’s sad or they’re happy
Vendo a vida passar // Watching life pass by
E essa vida é uma atriz // And this life is an actress
Que corta o bem na raiz // That nips any good at the bud
E faz do mal cicatriz // And of evil makes a scar
Vai ver até que essa vida é morte // For all we know maybe even this life is death
E a morte é // And death is
A vida que se quer //The life that’s wished for.

— Commentary —


In 1969, when Baden Powell was separating from his second wife, Tereza Drummond, his friend and partner Paulo César Pinheiro went to stay with him. In the throes of Baden’s separation they composed this song, which Pinheiro says was perhaps “the craziest of all the sambas we made together, but, without false modesty, it’s one of the most beautiful, without a doubt, of all time, in the anthology of Brazilian popular songs.”

Elizeth Cardoso released the song on her 1970 LP Falou e Disse, and later that year Baden Powell and Paulo César Pinheiro released it on their album As Músicas de Baden Powell e Paulo César Pinheiro, “Os Cantores da Lapinha”. 

Here is Elizeth Cardoso singing with Baden Powell on the guitar:

Source: Histórias das Minhas Canções by Paulo César Pinheiro (2010).

“Senhora Liberdade” (Nei Lopes/Wilson Moreira) and “Tô voltando” (Paulo César Pinheiro/Mauricio Tapajós)

Lyrics from “Senhora Liberdade” by Nei Lopes and Wilson Moreira (1979)

Abre as asas sobre mim // Spread your wings over me
Oh senhora liberdade // Oh, lady liberty
Eu fui condenado// I was condemned
Sem merecimento // Undeservedly
Por um sentimento, por uma paixão // On account of a sentiment, a passion
Violenta emoção // Violent emotion
Pois amar foi meu delito // For loving was my crime
Mas foi um sonho tão bonito // But it was such a beautiful dream
Hoje estou no fim // Today I’m at my end
Senhora liberdade abre as asas sobre mim (2x) // Lady liberty, spread your wings over me
Não vou passar por inocente // I’m not going to pass as innocent
Mas já sofri terrivelmente // But I’ve already suffered terribly
Por caridade, oh liberdade abre as asas sobre mim (2x) // Take mercy, oh liberty, spread your wings over me

“Tô voltando” by Mauricio Tapajós and Paulo César Pinheiro (1979)

Pode ir armando o coreto // You can go ahead and get the bandstand ready
E preparando aquele feijão preto // And start making those black beans
Eu tô voltando // I’m coming back
Põe meia dúzia de Brahma pra gelar // Put a half-dozen Brahmas on ice
Muda a roupa de cama // Change the bedding
Eu tô voltando // I’m coming back

Leva o chinelo pra sala de jantar // Bring my flipflops to the dining room
Que é lá mesmo que a mala eu vou largar // Cause that’s exactly where I’m gonna toss my suitcase
Quero te abraçar, pode se perfumar // I want to hold you, go ahead and put on perfume
Porque eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back

Dá uma geral, faz um bom defumador // Give the place a cleaning, a good cleanse
Enche a casa de flor // Fill the house with flowers
Que eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back
Pega uma praia, aproveita, tá calor // Hit the beach, enjoy – it’s hot
Vai pegando uma cor // Go on and get tan
Que eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back

Faz um cabelo bonito pra eu notar // Do your hair up pretty for me to notice
Que eu só quero mesmo é despentear // Cause all I want is to muss it up
Quero te agarrar // I want to clutch you
Pode se preparar porque eu tô voltando // You better get ready because I’m coming back
Põe pra tocar na vitrola aquele som // Put that one album on the record player
Estréia uma camisola // And put on new negligee
Eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back

Dá folga pra empregada // Give the maid a day off
Manda a criançada pra casa da avó // Send the kids to their grandmother’s
Que eu to voltando // Cause I’m coming back
Diz que eu só volto amanhã se alguém chamar // Say I’m only getting back tomorrow, if anyone asks
Telefone não deixa nem tocar // Telephone? don’t even let it even ring
Quero lá, lá, lá, ia, porque eu to voltando! // I want to la-la-la-ya, because I’m coming back

— Commentary —

Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, whose musical partnership was one of the most important in the history of samba.
Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, whose musical partnership was one of the most important in the history of samba.

On August 28, 1979, Brazil’s military government, led by President João Figueiredo, issued a sweeping amnesty law: Law 6.683 gave amnesty to all those who had been accused of committing or participating in what the military dictatorship (1964 – 1985) deemed political or electoral crimes, stripped of their most basic political and human rights, and imprisoned or forced into exile. (The Law also established full amnesty for the brutal military government, an aspect which continues to stir up controversy in Brazil and in international courts, where its validity is disputed.) A wave of exiles — including leftist political leaders, journalists, artists, and academics — returned to Brazil between September and December of that year, and political prisoners were set free.

Pernambucan leftist leader Miguel Arraes returns to Brazil on 15 September 1979 after 15 years in exile.
Pernambucan leftist leader Miguel Arraes returns to Brazil on 15 September 1979 after 15 years in exile.

As it happened, that same year, two songs were released that had nothing to do with politics but were passionately adopted as anthems of amnesty: “Senhora Liberdade” and “Tô voltando”.

Apolônio de Carvalho, former leader of the Brazilian Communist Party, returns from exile on 27 October 1979.
Apolônio de Carvalho, former leader of the Brazilian Communist Party, returns from exile on 27 October 1979.

“Senhora Liberdade”:  Nei Lopes — a samba composer, lawyer, historian and essayist — was moved by stories of prisoners who came up with sambas to alleviate the anguish of incarceration.

Political prisoner Inês Etienne Romeo is freed immediately through the amnesty law on 29 August 1979. The sign reads: "Amnesty: Broad; For everyone; unlimited. Free our prisoners."
Political prisoner Inês Etienne Romeo is freed immediately through the amnesty law on 29 August 1979. The sign reads: “Amnesty: Broad; general (for everyone); unrestricted. Free our prisoners.”

Wilson Moreira, Lopes’s celebrated musical partner, was a prison guard by profession, and told Lopes he’d indeed heard such songs. Together they composed this samba in the voice of a prisoner who was convicted for a crime of passion. It quickly ended up being hailed as one of the great anthems of the liberty that came with the Amnesty Law – surely a welcome surprise. The hit also propelled singer Zezé Motta to success.

“Tô voltando” by Maurício Tapajós and Paulo César Pinheiro was released the same year and met a similar fortuitous fate. Pinheiro recalls that Mauricio Tapajós called him one day, yearning to return home after an intense time on the road. Pinheiro recounts Tapajós was struck at the end of the tour by a tremendous longing for “for home, for his wife, for his children, for Leblon, for Rio.”

Paulo César Pinheiro
Paulo César Pinheiro

On the eve of his return to Rio, Tapajós began to repeat to himself, “I can’t believe I’m going back.” He called Pinheiro and began to hum the start of a melody along with that phrase. Pinheiro had a hunch that this samba could work: He went to meet up with Tapajós and they worked the rest of the day on the song, and the next day Pinheiro finished the lyrics, which he recalls flowed easily:

Maurício Tapajós
Maurício Tapajós

“I, who had already experienced the same situation so many times, with so many trips, tremendous longing for home — I know a lot about the issue I set out to write about. It was an issue that was common across our profession. The whole lot of artists felt this same profound anxiousness to get home after each season of touring. And all of them wanted the same things that I scribbled out in that samba. It ended up being beautiful, and full of empathy. We just needed to sing it once, and the second time, everyone joined in – it turned immediately into a chorus. I quickly sensed it would be a success.”

Pinheiro recounts that the singer Simone was picking out songs for her upcoming album at the time and she declared, “This one’s mine!”

When Simone released “Tô voltando” it was an instant sensation.

Shortly after its release, Pinheiro recalls he was watching reports on TV Globo about the exiles returning home; as scenes rolled live inside airplanes “filled with our comrades,” between interviews and tears, he heard someone begin singing “Tô voltando.” He calls the scene a “blow to [his] heart: “Emotion took hold of me and tears rolled down my cheeks (…) I had to take deep breaths and look away from the television to avoid a heart attack.”  The song had taken on a new meaning, to his delight — a meaning many believed, and still believe, it’d had from the start.

The whole phenomenon led Pinheiro to remark, “This shows that the future of our songs isn’t in our hands. They’re whatever they’re meant to be — beyond the motives that inspired them. How wonderful that this song became what it became.”

Main sources for this post: Conversation with Luiz Antônio Simas; Nei Lopes interview here; Histórias das Minhas Canções by Paulo César Pinheiro (2010).

Trilogia do Alumbramento

Lyrics from Trilogia do Alumbramento: “Súplica” (1979), “O poder da criação” (1980), and “Minha missão” (1981) by João Nogueira and Paulo César Pinheiro

Good Audio Versions: Súplica, O poder da criação, Minha missão


The body, death takes away
The voice vanishes in the wind
Pain rises into the darkness
The name, the works immortalize
Death blesses the spirit, the breeze brings music
Which in life, is always the strongest light
Which illuminates life beyond death
Come to me, oh music, come in the air
Hear my plea from where you are
I know well it may not be the only one
Come to me, oh music, come dry the people’s tears
Everyone already suffers too much, help the world to live in peace

“O poder da criação”

No, no one makes samba just because they choose to
No force in the world interferes with the power of creation
No, it’s not necessary to be happy, nor afflicted
Nor to take refuge in the most beautiful place in search of inspiration
No, it’s a light that comes all of a sudden, with the speed of a falling star
That ignites the mind and the heart
Yes, it makes one think there’s a greater force that guides us
That’s in the air
It comes in the middle of the night, or in the light of day
It comes to torment us

And the poet lets himself be carried away by that magic
And a verse starts to come, and a melody starts to come
And the people begin to sing… Lalalaiá….

“Minha missão”

When I sing, it’s to alleviate my tears
And the tears of those who’ve already suffered so much
When I sing, I feel the radiance of a saint
I’m kneeling at the feet of God
I sing to announce the day, I sing to brighten up the night
I sing to denounce the scourge, I also sing against tyranny
I sing because in a melody I kindle in the heart of the people
The hope for a new world, and the struggle to live in peace

Of the Poder da Criação (power of creation), I’m a continuation
And I want to express gratitude that my Súplica (plea) was heard
I’m a messenger of music
My song is a mission, it has the force of prayer
And I fulfill my duty to those who live in tears
I live to sing, and I sing to live

When I sing, death runs through me
And I belt out a song from my throat
Cause the cicada, when it sings, dies
And wood when it dies, sings

— Interpretation —

João Nogueira and Paulo César Pinheiro (seated) composed over 50 sambas together. They celebrated their partnership with the release of the album Parcerias in 1994, which features 17 of their top hits.
João Nogueira and Paulo César Pinheiro (seated) composed over 50 sambas together. They celebrated their partnership with the release of the album Parcerias in 1994, which features 17 of their top hits.

This trilogy was inspired  by an argument that Paulo César Pinheiro witnessed one day at Odeon Records in Rio de Janeiro. Pinheiro looked on as a grumpy director at the studio scolded a maestro who had let his cigarette ashes fall on the floor. The studio was swank and sparkling; Prince Charles had been flown in to inaugurate it. But as Paulo César Pinheiro watched the tiff between director and maestro, he reflected on how silly it was: The posh studio that the director was so concerned with protecting would be gone one day, and the names on a plaque on the wall, including Prince Charles’s, would fade away. The music that was being recorded there was what really mattered –  it would last forever, and immortalize the artists’ names.

The three songs in the trilogy are dedicated to three essential moments in the process of composing a song: a reverence for music, which inspires the desire to compose; the moment of creation; and the act of singing the song. Continue reading “Trilogia do Alumbramento”