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Which are the best Brazilian songs ever?

Posted by Nadiva Olivier on September 16, 2009

Which are the best Brazilian songs ever? I can say that seven among the 10 best were composed by Tom Jobim, according to a panel of experts. The big winner: his song Águas de Março.

More than 200 Brazilian journalists, musicians and cultural icons were asked to name their three favorite national tunes starting in 1917 when “Pelo Telefone” (On the Phone), the first Brazilian samba, was recorded by Donga. “Which is the all-time best Brazilian song?” was the question presented.

Voters were suposed to analyse: melody, lyrics, some historical reason, and even sentimental motives. Jobim’s “Águas de Março”, from 1972, was the champion, but his name was also remembered for “Chega de Saudade” (3rd place, from 1958), “Retrato em Branco e Preto” (6th place, 1968) and “Garota de Ipanema” (7th place, 1963). Jobim was again considered for “Corcovado” (1960) and “Desafinado” (1958, a tie in 9th place) and “Wave (Vou Te Contar)” (1967, 10th place). Tom Jobim had 32 of his songs cited!

Composer Chico Buarque de Hollanda had the same number of tunes remembered. Surprisingly, Jorge Ben came in second with 22 tunes mentioned. Only his 1963 song “Mas que Nada”, however, won enough votes to be included among the 10 most memorable songs.

Caetano Veloso had 20 compositions mentioned, which gave him the third place in this category.

In 1999, a search for the best Brazilian songs of all times promoted by Globo TV Network found that Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil” (“Brazil”) was the favorite. This time the results were less chauvinistic. Jobim, with a total of 110 mentions, came well ahead of the second most cited composer, Chico Buarque, who got 69 nods. Vinicius de Moraes (48 mentions) came in third for his collaborations with Jobim, Chico Buarque, Baden Powell, Carlos Lyra, Edu Lobo and Toquinho. Caetano Veloso and Jorge Ben tied in fourth place with 34 citations.

The fifth place went to Roberto and Erasmo Carlos, a duo famous for their romantic ballads. They were remembered 24 times by the illustrious panel of voters.

Interestingly enough, the most memorable “Águas de Março” interpretation, which serves as reference for all the other versions, is the one sung by the duet Elis & Tom. Elis Regina didn’t like Tom Jobim and didn’t hide her dislike for the maestro whom she called “a bore”, “dim-witted”, and “old fogey” in the backstage, in 1974, when the Elis & Tom LP was being recorded. Elis, however, needed to revitalize a career that was being derailed by bad press from critics who were demanding more sophistication from her. The partnership with old Tom made the trick for her. “Águas de Março” appeared on a super brief venture of alternative tabloid Pasquim into the music business. The nonconformist publication in 1972 decided to release simple compacts—a record with a song on each side of the old vinyl disc—to reveal new talents. To guarantee success for the record, their proposal was to release on the other side of the disc an unpublished tune by a famous composer. The new composers were rookies João Bosco and Aldir Blanc with “Agnus Dei”. Jobim became their godfather in the recording, with “Águas de Março”. There would be only one more release in the collection: that of Fagner being presented by Caetano Veloso.

Women were barely mentioned in this selection. Rita Lee is the first woman to show up in the list. The feisty rocker was mentioned 15 times what guaranteed her an 11th place together with samba composer Cartola. Besides Lee, only Chiquinha Gonzaga and Dolores Duran were remembered. They showed up at the bottom of the list with four mentions each. A big name like Maysa was never mentioned. More recent composers like Marisa Monte, Adriana Calcanhotto, and Zélia Duncan also were snubbed. Talking for her colleagues, Rita Lee offered some explanation for this oversight: “Women are quantitatively less present in several areas. Only recently we started appearing while patriarchy exists for centuries.

Chiquinha Gonzaga is from a time when men would say, “Music is man’s occupation”. Dolores Duran was from a time when guys would say, “Women who compose are whores.” I’m from a time when Tubby’s Boy’s Only Clubhouse used to say, “To make rock you ought to have balls.” Cássia Eller is from a time when people say, “You need to be a macho-woman to make music like a man.” My granddaughter will be from a time when they will say, “Only a woman could make such a good song.”

Ranking of the best: 1st “Águas de Março” (Tom Jobim) /2nd “Construção” (Chico Buarque) /3rd “Chega de Saudade” (Tom Jobim &Vinicius de Moraes)/4th “Carinhoso” (Pixinguinha & João de Barro) /5th “Aquarela do Brasil” (Ary Barroso) /6th “Detalhes” (Roberto Carlos & Erasmo Carlos) /”Retrato em Branco e Preto” (Tom Jobim & Chico Buarque) ” /As Rosas Não Falam” (Cartola) /7th “Asa Branca” (Luiz Gonzaga & Humberto Teixeira) /”Domingo no Parque” (Gilberto Gil) /”Garota de Ipanema” (Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes) /8th “Mas Que Nada” (Jorge Ben) /”Sua Estupidez” (Roberto Carlos & Erasmo Carlos) /9th “Baby” (Caetano Veloso) /”Corcovado” (Tom Jobim) /”Desafinado” (Tom Jobim & Newton Mendonça) /”Panis et Circencis” (Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil) /”Pérola Negra” (Luiz Melodia) /”Três Apitos” (Noel Rosa) /”Tropicália” (Caetano Veloso) /10th “Beactress” (Edu Lobo & Chico Buarque) /”Dora” (Dorival Caymmi) /”Eu e a Brisa” (Johnny Alf) /”O Homem da Gravata Florida” (Jorge Ben) /”Inútil” (Roger Moreira) /”Ouro de Tolo” (Raul Seixas) /”Wave (Vou Te Contar)” (Tom Jobim).


If you like to listen any of them, tell me and I will send it to you.


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