Jobim’s legacy


No other Brazilian musician has had as profound an impact on popular music as Antônio Carlos Jobim. He was at the vanguard of the Música Popular Brasileira movement, a cultural and sociological revolution of artists who shared a proclivity for flouting musical convention, and his 1959 Chega de saudade was fundamental in establishing the genre that became known as bossa nova.

While Jobim’s compositions contained elements of traditional Brazilian samba as well as classical and traditional music, his sophisticated harmonic sensibilities, adventurous approach to voice leading, and passion for tinkering with the traditional syntax and imagery of pop lyrics made him one of the most original and innovative musicians of his time.

This according to “Jobim, Antonio Carlos” by Jim Allen (Encyclopedia of music in the 20th century [New York: Routledge, 2013] p. 489); this resource is one of many included in RILM music encyclopedias, an ever-expanding full-text compilation of reference works.

Today would have been Jobim’s 90th birthday! Below, singing his celebrated Águas de Março with Elis Regina, perhaps his greatest interpreter.

BONUS: Gal Costa sings Jobim’s Chega de saudade, often cited as the first bossa nova song.


Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Popular music

2 Responses to Jobim’s legacy

    • I’d like to add that Jobim was followed by many Brazilian musicians, who frequently reverence his purported ability to compose melodies, as well as for his harmonic progressions. He was certainly able to show his abilities in creating the song “Insensatez” by plagiarizing the harmonic progression from Chopin’s “Prelude op. 28, n. 4”, or in creating the “Samba de uma nota só” by simply applying a poem (by Newton Mendonça) to the accompaniment parts of a guitar solo in Garoto’s (a Brazilian guitar-player) “Concertino n. 2”. There is no doubt that he showed genuine ability in appropriating those previously composed works and transforming them cleverly into his own. He was interested (as can be heard in an interview of Vinicius de Morais to TV Cultura-SP) almost exclusively with money-grabbing, not exactly with promoting musical elaboration, unless well-paid. Naturally, one can argue that art without due earnings is a naïve romantic idea – Jobim was certainly not that kind of naïve person. In fact, in the early 1990’s he was fast enough to lend his name to the government of the State of S. Paulo (in his last years) to figure as dean to the Universidade Livre de Música (ULM – a creation implemented during Orestes Quércia’s term as governor). Even though Jobim was rarely present in S. Paulo, or contributing to any pedagogical efforts, he earned large amounts of money as dean, and a contract asserting that he perform at least twice a year (with orchestra) in the name of ULM, but with whatever extra-payment for that as he generally received for his own shows. So, there is no doubt that there is a true Brazilian in Jobim’s legacy that is the reflection of years of military dictatorship, as well as the reflection of willing corruption found in today’s environment. It is certainly true that Jobim was musically witty, but maintaining the cult of Jobim the person, or over-valuing his works without attention to his social and political attitudes, is the same as naïvely keeping quiet about the corruption or the needs to change Brazilian society.