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).


Lyrics from “Nanã” by Moacir Santos and Mário Telles (1964)

When I saw Nanã tonight
I saw my goddess by the moonlight
Every night I gazed at Nanã – the most beautiful thing to behold
What joy to finally find this goddess come just for me
And now all I can say is my life is only Nanã
Is Nanã

(Let’s go)
Tonight, of my delirium, I saw a new tomorrow born
Day came, with a new sun
Sun from the light that comes from
To worship Nanã is to be happy
I feel peace in this love
It’s all I ever dreamed of
My life is only Nanã
It’s Nanã…

— Interpretation —

Moacir Santos lived in the Los Angeles area from the late 1960s until his death in 2006.
Moacir Santos lived in the Los Angeles area from the late 1960s until his death in 2006.

One evening in the early 1960s, as he took one of his customary strolls through Parque Guinle in the Laranjeiras neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro,  Moacir Santos — the renowned instrumentalist, arranger, composer and music professor from rural Vila Bela, Pernambuco, who moved to Rio de Janeiro in the late 1940s and Los Angeles in the late 1960s  — hummed to himself. And he liked what he heard. He sang low: “nã nã nã” (the ã is the nasal sound in Portuguese), a tune that resolved in two very low notes that helped him structure the melody.

Santos began to play his new tune on the clarinet in informal get-togethers with Tom Jobim and Baden Powell; on one of those occasions, Nara Leão was there with her future husband, the filmmaker Cacá Diegues.  Diegues loved what he heard, and had Nara Leão record the song — still without lyrics — for his 1963 film Ganga Zumba. 

Vinicius de Moraes tried his revered hand at lyrics for the song, but Moacir Santos rejected them on the grounds that they were “too sensual” — he didn’t want to think about his Nanã being peeped at as she bathed, apparently part of Vinicius’s verses.  Moacir justified himself, explaining, “Nanã is a mixture of onomatopoeic sounds and the name of an African goddess.”

Nanã is actually the supreme god in certain African sects, and a female orixá in Afro-Brazilian religions, mother of all other orixás and the oldest goddess of the waters, most often syncretized with the Catholic Saint Anne, the mother of Mary.

The lyricist Mário Telles wrote the lyrics for the song that would stick, and the singer Wilson Simonal, at the height of his popularity in the 1960s, recorded “Nanã” in 1964. (In the 1970s, Simonal’s popularity plummeted as a result of his alleged support for the military dictatorship and his open criticism of leftist musicians.)

coisasMoacir Santos gave his student Sérgio Mendes the task of orchestrating “Nanã” and “Coisa no. 2” — the latter from Santos’s only Brazilian album, Coisas (1965), on which each track is just named “Coisa no. 1”; “Coisa no. 2,” etc. (“Thing 1; thing 2…”).  Santos suggested the unusual ensemble of two trombones and a saxophone, which ended up inspiring the original make-up of Sérgio Mendes & Bossa Rio. As a sextet, the group went on to record “Nanã” – along with “Coisa No.2” — on the iconic 1964 album Você ainda não ouviu nada!. 



Lyrics in Portuguese

Essa noite quando olhei Nanã
Vi a minha deusa ao luar
Toda a noite eu olhei Nanã
A coisa mais linda de se olhar
Que felicidade achar enfim
Esta deusa só prá mim, Nanã
E agora eu só sei dizer
Toda a minha vida é Nanã, é Nanã…

Nesta noite no delírios meus
Vi nascer um novo amanhã
Veio o dia com um novo sol
Sol da luz que vem de Nanã
Adorar nanã é ser feliz
Tenho a paz e o amor e tudo o que eu quis
E agora eu só sei dizer
Toda a minha vida é Nanã, é Nanã…

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol. 2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello

Samba em prelúdio

“Samba em prelúdio” by Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell (1962)

Without you, I have no purpose
Because without you, I don’t even know how to cry
I’m a flame without glow, a garden without moonlight
Moonlight without love, love without being given

Without you, I’m just lovelessness
A ship without sea, a field without flowers
Sadness that goes, sadness that comes
Without you my love, I’m no one

(woman’s part):
Ah, what saudade, what desire to see our life reborn
Come back, my dear
My arms need yours, your embraces need mine
I’m so alone, my eyes weary of staring into the distance
Come, behold life
Without you, my love, I’m no one

— Interpretation —

Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell, whose friendship and musical partnership Powell's widow Silvia likened to a "sexless marriage."
Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell (with guitar), whose friendship and musical partnership Powell’s widow Silvia likened to a “sexless marriage.”

One evening in 1962, Baden Powell went to Vinicius de Moraes‘s house with this song — which he described as “full of love” —  for Vinicius to write the lyrics. In this video, Baden recalls that he got to Vinicius’s at around 9 p.m., excited to show him the song, which he imagined being sung by a man and woman together. (The woman’s part is noted in the lyrics above.)  He played the song for Vinicius and then they began to throw back their usual whiskey. By the time they were on their third bottle at around 3 or 4 a.m., Baden grew worried that they still had no lyrics and were “nearly drunk.”

Vinicius and Baden met around 1958 at a boate in Copacabana, where Tom Jobim and Ary Barroso had a show together.
Vinicius, left, and Baden met around 1958 at a boate in Copacabana, where Tom Jobim and Ary Barroso had a show together.

Baden asked Vinicius what was wrong. Vinicius was evasive at first, telling Baden the issue was “disagreeable,” but that they should leave the song aside for the time being. Baden pushed him, and he exclaimed, “I think this is plagiary! It will be all over the newspapers, ‘Baden and Vinicius plagiarize.'”

Baden told Vinicius the song wasn’t plagiarized, but said “Ok, plagiary of whom, of what?” Vinicius responded, “This is clearly Chopin!”

Baden assured Vinicius the song wasn’t Chopin’s, but Vinicius told him he never made mistakes – and that perhaps Baden had had too much to drink. Vinicius said he’d get confirmation from Lucinha, his wife of the moment, who played piano and loved Chopin. In spite of Baden’s protests about waking Lucinha at that hour, with day nearly breaking, Vinicius summoned her to listen to Baden play the song. Lucinha confirmed to the tipsy duo that the song was beautiful, romantic, and by no means Chopin’s. Vinicius responded to Lucinha, “Even you are against me!” He turned to Baden and said, “In that case, Chopin forgot to compose this song.” He then turned to the typewriter and wrote the lyrics, all at once.

youngbadenWhile Vinicius was a poet and diplomat born into Rio’s high society zona sul, Baden Powell (August 6, 1937 – September 26, 2000) was born in rural Varre-Sai, Rio de Janeiro. When he was just three months old his family moved to the humble São Cristóvão neighborhood, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro; he said he therefore always considered himself carioca. Powell’s father – on top of being a scouting enthusiast, hence Baden’s name – was a leather craftsman and violin player, and often organized musical get-togethers at the family home, which Baden said influenced him profoundly from a very young age.

Baden quickly excelled as a virtuoso guitarist, demonstrating singular talent for playing a vast range of styles. At fifteen he began performing in little bars around Rio, and at eighteen began playing regular gigs with a jazz trio at Boate Copacabana. Around that time, he composed his first major hit, “Samba triste,” with Billy Blanco, whom Baden referred to as his first true musical partner. Shortly thereafter – “some time around 1958” – he met Vinicius at Boate Arpège, where Tom Jobim had a show with Ary Barroso.

In this documentary, Baden recalls he was thrilled when Vinicius, whom he admired from afar, called him over to the table where he was drinking whiskey.  Vinicius said, “I know you’re a composer, you have a few songs and all – what about if we tried a little partnership?” Telling the story, Baden remarks, “I was really timid — like I am to this day, even though it might not seem that way — so I mostly just let him do the talking, but I said it would be the greatest pleasure to work with him.”  The two met a few days later at Hotel Miramar, and composed their first two songs together, “Canção de Ninar,” and “Sonho de amor e paz.”

In 1966, Baden and Vinicius released the tremendously popular, mystical album "Os Afro-Sambas," which Baden said was inspired by "afro-brasileiros" and stories he would tell Vinicius about Afro-Brazilian gods like Xango and Ossanha.
In 1966, Baden and Vinicius released the tremendously popular, mystical album “Os Afro-Sambas,” which Baden said was inspired by “afro-brasileiros” and stories he would tell Vinicius about Afro-Brazilian gods like Xango and Ossanha.

Soon after, Baden went to Vinicius’s house to work on a song with him, and ended up staying for four months. They would often pull down all the shades to compose, so that they wouldn’t notice the passage of time, night and day.

The pair’s 1966 album Os Afro-Sambas remains one of the best-loved MPB albums of all time.

After Vinicius’s death in 1980, Baden began performing “Samba em prelúdio” with the lyrics “without you, my poet, I’m no one; without you, my Vinicius, I’m no one.”

Main source for this post not linked in text: Livro de Letras: Vinicius de Moraes (Companhia das Letras)