One of the great, and still underrated, musical influences from the sixties was Antonio Carlos Jobim.
The bossa nova craze, led by “The Girl From Ipanema,” brought a fresh sound, and new groove, to American airwaves, featuring the sultry voice of Astrud Gilberto and the breezy lyrical sax of Stan Getz.
It was beautiful music, and it was popular.
And most of it was composed on a nylon string guitar by Antonio Carlos Jobim. His other songs, Wave, One Note Samba, Desifinado, were all beautiful, expertly assembled melodic lines with exquisite chord progressions. Ipanema was a beach near Rio de Janeiro. Jobim, and Gilberto, and the music they created, came from Brazil.
Of all the countries in Latin America, Brazil is the largest, and the only one where the native language is not Spanish, but Portuguese.
Spanish and Portuguese are similar, as Spain and Portugal are adjacent countries, but they are as different from each other as Spanish is from French. They must be learned separately.
The word for “thank you” in Spanish is gracias. In Portuguese, it’s obrigado. It’s easy to see the connection to similar words in English: gracias connects to grace, and gracious, while obrigado connects to obligated or obligation.
I was a young lad in Atlanta picking up a guitar for the first time around 1964, and I began to see how my fingers could form chords that sounded like “Girl From Ipanema.” That was an essential foundation of my emerging understanding of the chords and notes available on the guitar fingerboard.
Soon, I was writing songs of my own, partially inspired by The Beatles, but also informed by the gentler vocabulary of Jobim. The major seventh chord - requiring four notes to sound its true identity, rather than three notes of more common triads of rock and country - sounded beautiful to me. I was happy to find it on my guitar, and use it in my early compositions. I was following a path that Jobim had inaugurated.
And now, decades of music making later, I’m still writing songs on the nylon string guitar, and, in an ironic flash of historical payback, somehow, the music I make is being heard in Brazil.
I’ve never been to Brazil, except for one stop in the airport in 1979 when I was on a tour with David Soul that included Argentina and Chile. And yet, Brazil seems large in my mind, a most famous, inviting, and exciting place, filled with magnificent carnivals, rain forest jungles, colorful birds and flowers, and a steady soundtrack of sensual music.
I’ve had Brazilian musicians come into my Nashville studio to record their own songs, which reveal a deep admiration for classic American country, like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Some of their songs are in English, and some in Portuguese.
I’ve known musicians in Nashville who’ve lived in Brazil, one who still lives there, calling himself Beach Man.
But what fascinates me is that, without any effort on my part, my own songs are being played there.
Spotify is the platform that tracks streaming globally, and provides precise reports for that activity.
For several months, Brazil has been a large market for my Bilateral Music album, typically #2 right below the United States.
This week, for the first time, my Spotify chart shows that Brazil has taken the top position.
Last week, 848 streams in Brazil, ahead of 811 in the United States.
I don’t know why it’s happening, but I can say I’m grateful. I can say thanks.
I like the word grace, so I can say gracias.
Speaking the language of Brazil, I can say obrigado, recognizing that I am obligated to Brazil, for producing Antionio Carlos Jobim and the beautiful music that inspired me to make music the way I do.
Blogging Bryan 21September18