The greatest singer-songwriter on the planet reaches his three-score-and-ten today. Caetano Veloso cast his spell over me nearly twenty years ago when he brought his “Fina Estampa” show to the Festival Hall. I went along to review it, more out of curiosity than anything else, and went home in a daze. Since then I’ve seen him countless times. Each concert has had a character all its own. He seems to re-invent himself with each passing season, flitting from bossa nova to art rock, Spanish and Italian ballads to the avant-garde. If you don’t know his work, I recommend his magnificent live album, a tribute to the films of Fellini. Peter Culshaw’s 2010 interview for The Arts Desk remains one of the best print articles I’ve seen. Although I prefer the music Veloso made from the 1990s onwards, it seems an appropriate moment to revisit “London, London”, a self-consciously wide-eyed song dating from the period when Brazil’s military rulers forced him into exile. (John Lewis wrote a fine piece in The Guardian about how Veloso and his friend Gilberto Gil coped with life in a strange land.)
Other essential listening for beginners: the duet with Gil on “Desde que o Samba e Samba” and the breathtaking “Cucurrucu Paloma”, from Almodovar’s “Habla con Ella”. I envy anyone hearing those for the first time.