Brazilian bossa nova singer Astrud Gilberto, famed for her rendition of The Girl from Ipanema, has passed away at the age of 83. A prominent figure in Brazil’s music scene during the 1960s and 70s, Gilberto worked with an array of artists, including Quincy Jones and George Michael, and recorded 16 albums. Her version of The Girl From Ipanema sold over five million copies, contributing to the global popularity of bossa nova.
Sofia Gilberto, the singer’s granddaughter, announced the news of her passing on Instagram. New York-based guitarist Paul Ricci, who collaborated with Gilberto, also confirmed her death on Facebook.
Born in Bahia as Astrud Evangelina Weinert, Gilberto grew up in Rio de Janeiro, where she was inspired by her musically inclined family. In her teenage years, she became part of a “musical clan” that included singer Nara Leao and guitarist João Gilberto, who co-created bossa nova. Astrud and João married shortly after meeting.
Astrud Gilberto’s recording career began accidentally in 1963 when she accompanied her husband to New York as a studio translator for his album with jazz legend Stan Getz. When the band needed a vocalist for the English lyrics of The Girl From Ipanema, Gilberto volunteered. Despite having little time to prepare, her vocals captured the essence of the song, which went on to win the Grammy Award for record of the year.
Although Gilberto only received a $120 session fee for her performance, it launched her successful solo career, starting with 1965’s The Astrud Gilberto Album. She collaborated with renowned jazz guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim on a collection of Brazilian standards.
Gilberto’s son, Marcelo, revealed in an interview with The Independent last year that his mother struggled with objectification from the press and faced misogyny in the music industry. In the 1970s, she began writing her own songs, featured on albums such as Astrud Gilberto Now (1972) and That Girl From Ipanema (1977). She also acted in films and recorded soundtracks, including the one for The Deadly Affair, arranged by Quincy Jones.
In the early 1980s, Gilberto formed a group with her son Marcelo on bass and toured the world. However, she rarely performed in Brazil, where she felt underappreciated. “Brazil turned its back on her,” Marcelo told The Independent.
Throughout her career, Gilberto collaborated with various artists, including recording an album of samba classics with James Last and a duet with George Michael for the charity album Red Hot + Rio in 1996. Her final album, Jungle, was released in 2002, after which she announced an indefinite hiatus from public performance.
Gilberto devoted much of her later years to campaigning against animal cruelty. The legacy of her first recording, The Girl from Ipanema, lives on through the interpretations of numerous artists, such as Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, and Nat King Cole.
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