João Gilberto – “João Valentão” (Dorival Caymmi) and “Chão de Estrelas” (Orestes Barbosa and Silvio Caldas)


“João Valentão” by Dorival Caymmi (1945)

João Valentão é brigão// João Valentão is a tough
De dar bofetão// He throws blows
Não presta atenção e nem pensa na vida// He doesn’t pay attention and doesn’t even contemplate life
A todo João intimida// He intimidates every João
Faz coisas que até Deus duvida// He does things even God can’t believe
Mas tem seu momento na vida// But he has his moment in life…

É quando o sol vai quebrando lá pro fim do mundo pra noite chegar// It’s when the sun goes breaking over the end of the world, for night to arrive
É quando se ouve mais forte o ronco das ondas na beira do mar// It’s when the roar of the waves can be heard more loudly at the edge of the sea
É quando o cansaço da lida, da vida, obriga João se sentar// It’s when the weariness of the struggle, of life, forces João to sit down
É quando a morena se encolhe, se chega pro lado querendo agradar// It’s when the morena curls up, comes to his side, wishing to please
Se a noite é de lua a vontade é de contar mentiras, de se espreguiçar// If the night is moonlit, the urge is to tell fibs, to stretch out
Deitar na areia da praia que acaba onde a vista não pode alcançar// Lie down on the sand on the beach that ends beyond where the eye can see
E assim adormece esse homem que nunca precisa dormir pra sonhar// And that’s how this man falls asleep, who never needs to sleep to dream
Porque não há sonho mais lindo do que sua terra não há// Because there is no dream more beautiful than his land, there’s none

“Chão de Estrelas” by Orestes Barbosa and Silvio Caldas (1937)

Minha vida era um palco iluminado// My life was a lighted stage
Eu vivia vestido de dourado// I was always dressed in gold
Palhaço das perdidas ilusões// Clown of lost illusions
Cheio dos guizos falsos de alegria// Full of the phony bells of joy
Andei cantando minha fantasia// I went around singing my fantasy
Entre as palmas febris dos corações// Among the feverish palms* of hearts

Meu barracão lá no morro do Salgueiro// My shack, on Salgueiro Hill
Tinha o cantar alegre de um viveiro// Had the cheerful song of an aviary
Foste a sonoridade que acabou// You were the sonority that ended
E hoje quando do sol a claridade //And today, when the sun’s rays
Forra meu barracão, sinto saudade// Stream into my shack, I feel saudade
Da mulher, pomba rola, que voou// For the woman, dove that flew away

Nossas roupas comuns dependuradas// Our modest clothes hanging
Na corda, qual bandeiras agitadas// Out on the line, like waving flags
Parecia um estranho festival// Appeared an exotic festival
Festa dos nossos trapos coloridos// A party of our colored rags
A mostrar que nos morros mal vestidos// Showing that on the poorly dressed hillsides
É sempre feriado nacional// It’s always a national holiday

A porta do barraco era sem trinco// The shack’s door had no latch
Mas a lua furando o nosso zinco// But the moon, boring through our tin
Salpicava de estrelas nosso chão// Peppered our floor with stars
E tu pisavas nos astros, distraída// And you stepped on the stars, absent-minded
Sem saber que a ventura dessa vida// Unaware that the fortune of this life
É a cabrocha, o luar, e o violão// Is the cabrocha, the moonlight and the guitar

— Commentary–


Última Hora, Missão 2858-59
João Gilberto’s debut at Copacabana Palace, 1959. Photo via Arquivo Publico do Estado de São Paulo. 
Jornal Aqui Sao Paulo;
João Gilberto. Photo via Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo.

It would be hard to find a foreign lover of Brazilian music whose life wasn’t fundamentally changed by João Gilberto, who died yesterday, July 6, at age 88.  I remember listening over and over to a playlist put together by the fantastic Zuim Podcast in 2011 for Gilberto’s 80th birthday. I was living in New York at the time and the songs — which still bring to mind memories of runs in Prospect Park and drab days at a midtown office — helped inspire this blog, which I started a few months later, and my move to Brazil. They included several from this 1958 recording from the casa de Chico Pereira, linked above. Especially beautiful to me was “João Valentão,” to this day, thanks to that recording, maybe my favorite Brazilian song — or at least one of the first that would come to mind if I had to answer that impossible question. It was one of the first songs I translated for the blog back in 2011. Here it is reprised with João Gilberto singing, along with “Chão de Estrelas” (which also has its own post from 2012), which follows “João Valentão” on the album. Over the next few weeks I hope to get time to translate more João Gilberto recordings on here; for now, here are two of my favorites.


*The first verse of “Chão de Estrelas” ends with “among the feverish palms of hearts.” In Portuguese, the literal translation for “clap” in English is “to beat palms.” Orestes Barbosa played with this phrase, referring to beating hearts as “palms of hearts.”

“Pelas ruas da cidade” & “Reserva de domínio”

“Pelas ruas da cidade” – Paulo César Pinheiro (1980)

Ando pelas ruas da cidade // I stroll down the city streets
Meio abandonado de carinho// Rather forsaken of love
Como a lamentar a mocidade// As if lamenting the youth
Que desperdicei pelo caminho// That I wasted along the way
Ando pelas ruas da cidade// I stroll down the city streets
Só, mas livre como um passarinho//Alone, but free as a bird
Tenho no meu peito uma saudade que me dói// I carry in my breast a saudade that hurts
Mas prefiro viver sozinho// But I prefer to live alone
Inda relembro as minhas horas de felicidade// I still remember my moments of happiness
E como joguei tudo fora sem necessidade// And how I threw it all away for nothing
Mas nada do que eu fiz na vida// But nothing that I did in life
Foi contra a vontade// Was against my will
Duro é ter nos ombros// It’s hard to bear on your shoulders
O peso da idade// The weight of age
Nem feliz nem triste// Neither happy nor sad
Só sem novidade// Merely with nothing new to tell
Ando pelas ruas da cidade// I stroll down the city streets

Reserva de Domínio” – Mauro Duarte & Paulo César Pinheiro (1985)

Um coração tão machucado como o meu// A heart as hurt as mine
Não tem mais força pra aguentar uma outra dor // No longer has the strength to stand a new wound
já está cansado de aventuras // it’s tired of wild affairs
foram tantas amarguras // there’ve been so many bitter stories
tá difícil de encarar um novo amor // it’s hard to face a new love
Mas sei que muitas insistências vão surgir // But I know that many demands will emerge
Com a carência que hoje existe por aí // With the loneliness that’s around today
Pois a alma aflita pelo tédio // Because the soul afflicted with tedium
Mediante a tanto assédio // Under such assail
Se também se descuidar vai sucumbir // Must take care, or it will succumb as well
Mas tem que suportar// But one needs to just bear it
sem se preocupar // Without paying any mind
Com as palavras atiradas pelo chão // to the words tossed on the ground
Com promessas pertubando o coração // to promises disquieting the heart
São juras e mais juras desvairadas // There are vows, and more frantic vows
Que eu presumo aparecer// That I suspect will surface
Mas pra não sofrer // But so as not to suffer
Tenho que me armar // I need to arm myself
Pro domínio não perder // So as not to lose control
Sei que água mole em pedra dura // I know that soft water on hard rock
Tanto bate até que fura // Beats until it bores through
É o que não pode acontecer //And that’s just what can’t happen

— Commentary-

Mauro Duarte and Paulo César Pinheiro’s friendship and musical partnership brought about some of the most beautiful MPB songs. Mauro also introduced Paulinho Pinheiro to Clara Nunes, his wife and muse until her untimely death in 1983.

Paulo César Pinheiro is best known for his ingenious lyrics for songs written with brilliant composers like Baden Powell, Mauro Duarte, Mauricio Tapajós, Eduardo Gudin, Guinga, João Nogueira, and many more of the most renowned names in Brazilian popular music of the past fifty years.

But he recalls that his partner Mauro Duarte observed that he often revised the melodies he was working with, either working on them with his partners or tweaking and adding to them after he’d received them.

One day as Paulinho and Mauro worked on a song together, Mauro remarked, “You’re doing just about everything alone, why don’t you start composing songs on your own, without a partner? You know how to do it, chefia.”  

Mauro’s suggestion rattled around in Paulinho’s head until one day, as he rambled down the beach in Leblon, he began whistling a tune, recalling and mimicking phrases he’d heard Copinha play on the flute. He quickly ended up with a beautiful tune for a samba, and says by the time he got home, he had the whole song written in his head, and ran to record it. That was the first of over 150 songs Paulo César Pinheiro went on to compose on his own, a beautiful response to the coaxing of his close friend and partner Mauro Duarte.

In turn, a few years later, Pinheiro came up with a tune that everyone loved but that he just couldn’t find words for. No theme came to him; it was as if he had a block with that specific melody. Mauro would sing the tune back to Paulinho when they met up, and ask him eagerly about how the lyrics were coming along. So Paulinho decided to challenge Mauro the same way Mauro had challenged him: “Why don’t you write the lyrics? If you like this samba so much, and are in such a hurry, take a pen to it.”

Mauro accepted the challenge. A little over a week later he brought the song back to Paulinho, bashfully apologizing for the lyrics before he sang them, saying he wasn’t sure if they’d turned out ok. Paulinho grew nervous: he didn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings.

But as Mauro sang, Paulinho recalls, “He gave me goosebumps. He’d gotten it so perfectly right. The lyrics were beautiful. I was surprised and content, and he even more so. And that’s how, for the first time, on a melody of mine, the lyrics were written by someone else.”

Source for this post: Paulo César Pinheiro: Histórias das Minhas Canções

“Vem amenizar”; “O Mar Serenou”; “Ouro Desça do seu Trono/ Mil Reis”

Lyrics from “Vem amenizar” by Candeia and Waldir 59 (1978)

Vem amenizar a minha dor, amor // Come alleviate my pain, my love
Tu és entre elas a mais bela flor // You are, among them, the most beautiful flower
Vem porque só eu te quero bem // Come, because only I want the best for you
És a vida da minha vida, querida // You’re the life of my life, dear

Vem dar lenitivo ao meu pobre coração// Come give relief to my poor heart
Que tanto sofre a esperar por teu amor // That suffers so much for your love
Vem suavizar esta paixão // Come soften this passion
E exterminar toda esta dor // And exterminate this pain
Ora, vem por favor // Now, come, please…

Lyrics from “O mar serenou” (Candeia, 1975)

O mar serenou quando ela pisou na areia // The sea turned serene when she stepped on the sand
Quem samba na beira do mar é sereia //It’s a siren who dances samba at the edge of the sea

O pescador não tem medo // The fisherman isn’t afraid
É segredo se volta ou se fica no fundo do mar // It’s a mystery if she comes back or stays in the depths of the sea
Ao ver a morena bonita sambando // Upon seeing the beautiful morena dancing samba
Se explica que não vai pescar // He tells himself he won’t go fishing –
Deixa o mar serenar // Let the sea be serene

O mar serenou quando ela pisou na areia // The sea turned serene when she stepped on the sand
Quem samba na beira do mar é sereia // It’s a siren who dances samba at the edge of the sea

A lua brilhava vaidosa // The moon shone brightly, vain,
De si orgulhosa e prosa com que deus lhe deu // Full of herself, showing off what God gave her
Ao ver a morena sambando // When she saw the morena dancing samba
Foi se acabrunhando então adormeceu o sol apareceu // She lost spirit, fell asleep, and the sun appeared

O mar serenou quando ela pisou na areia // The sea turned serene when she stepped on the sand
Quem samba na beira do mar é sereia // It’s a siren who dances samba at the edge of the sea

Um frio danado que vinha // A bitter cold coming
Do lado gelado que o povo até se intimidou // From the frigid side left the people intimidated
Morena aceitou o desafio sambou // But the morena accepted the challenge, danced
E o frio sentiu seu calor e o samba se esquentou // And the cold felt her warmth, and the samba heated up

O mar serenou quando ela pisou na areia // The sea turned serene when she stepped on the sand
Quem samba na beira do mar é sereia // It’s a siren who dances samba at the edge of the sea

A estrela que estava escondida // The star that was hidden
Sentiu-se atraída depois então, apareceu // Felt drawn in and then came out
Mas ficou tão enternecida // But she became so enraptured
Indagou a si mesma a estrela afinal será ela ou sou eu //She asked herself, ‘who’s the star, after all, me or her?’

O mar serenou quando ela pisou na areia // The sea turned serene when she stepped on the sand
Quem samba na beira do mar é sereia // It’s a siren who dances samba at the edge of the sea

Lyrics from “Ouro, Desça do Seu Trono” (Paulo da Portela, Candeia – 1978) & “Mil Reis” (Candeia & Noca da Portela, 1978)

Ouro Desça Do Seu Trono // Gold, come down off your throne
Venha Ver O Abandono // Come see the forlornness
De Milhões De Almas Aflitas, Como Gritam // Of millions of suffering souls, how they cry
Sua Majestade, A Prata // Her Majesty, Silver [Money]
Mãe Ingrata, Indiferente E Fria // Thankless Mother, Indifferent and Cold
Sorri Da Nossa Agonia // Smirks at our agony

Diamante, Safira E Rubi // Diamond, Saphire, Ruby
São Pedras Valiosas // Are valuable stones
Mas Eu Não Troco Por Ti // But I wouldn’t trade you for them
Porque És Mais Preciosa // Because you’re even more precious
De Tanto Ver O Poder // After so many times seeing power
Prevalecer Na Mão Do Mal // In the hand of evil
O Homem Deixa Se Vender //
A Honra Pelo Vil Metal // Man lets his honor be sold for vile metal

Nessa Terra Sem Paz Com Tanta Guerra // In this land without peace, with so much war
A Hipocrisia Se Venera // Hypocrisy is venerated
O Dinheiro É Quem Impera // Money reigns
Sinto Minha Alma Tristonha // I feel my soul heavy with sorrow
De Tanto Ver Falsidade // From seeing so much falseness
E Muitos Já Tem Vergonha // And many have grown ashamed
Do Amor E Honestidade // Of love and honesty

— Mil Reis —

Hoje tu voltas aqui com semblante a sorrir // Today you return here, a smile on your face
Esperando que eu te receba e te dê // Expecting me to receive you and give you
Muitos beijos de amor // Many kisses full of love
Esquecendo afinal o que entre nós se passou // Forgetting, let’s face it, what happened between us
Foi você quem errou // You were the one who went wrong
Te ajoelhas aos meus pés, mas não vales mil réis // You kneel at my feet, but you’re not worth 1,000 reis
Te conheço, afinal // After all, I know you
Não mereço perder tantos anos da vida // I don’t deserve to lose so many years of my life
Tentarei te esquecer, perdida // I’ll try to forget you, you’re lost
Perdida porque não honraste um homem // Lost because you didn’t honor a man
Manchaste o meu nome e tudo quanto te ofertei // You tarnished my name and everything I gave you
Jogaste fora, como moeda sem valor, um grande amor // You threw away, like a coin without value, a great love
Quem me encontrou, me valorizou // The one who found valued me

— Commentary —

Candeia on the guitar in 1969, with Martinho da Vila behind him.
Candeia on the guitar in 1969, with Martinho da Vila behind him.

Today, August 17, 2015, would have been Candeia‘s 80th birthday; he died of a heart attack at age 43 on November 16, 1978.

Because of his tremendous impact and short life, Candeia has been called a “lightning bolt that passed through Brazilian popular music.” Candeia achieved such greatness in such short time in part because he was born into the Portela samba school in Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, in 1935. His father, Candeia Senior, was involved in the founding of the samba school, and Candeia grew up with birthday parties and holidays celebrated with feijoada, cachaça and pagodes that lasted for days. By age 15 he was a composer for Portela, and by age 17 he had his first Portela carnival championship under his belt, with  “As seis datas magnas” (Candeia & Altair Prego).

Candeia’s life was short and tough: he spent his last 13 years in a wheelchair, paralyzed by gunshot wounds from a road-rage brawl.  But the hardship of being bound to a wheelchair made his music richer and fuelled his social activism, and his untimely death makes his lyrics more poignant to listeners today:  His moving verses about life, race, social justice, love, samba, beer and betrayal are some of Brazil’s most beloved.

For more on Candeia, go to this earlier, more thorough post:

Here’s Candeia’s close friend Waldir 59 recently singing “Vem amenizar”, with Teresa Cristina, a contemporary samba singer and composer:

Source: Luiz Antônio Simas fala sobre Candeia; Candeia: Luz da Inspiração by João Baptista M. Vargens