In memoriam: Tom Jobim

Saturday would have been his 87th birthday; 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of his death. To people who don’t know his music that well, Antonio Carlos Jobim will always be the man who immortalized the girl from Ipanema. There was so much more to him than that, of course, but because bossa nova has been played into the ground by so many dull lounge bands the music’s melancholy beauty tends to be overlooked.  (Brazilians argue that robotic English translations of the lyrics haven’t helped either.) One song that I listen to over and over is “A Felicidade”, another of Jobim’s collaborations with the poet-cum-diplomat Vinicius de Moraes. The refrain is heartbreakingly simple: “Tristeza não tem fim  / Felicidade sim.”  I’m not sure if there’s an official translation, but as far as I can tell (my Portuguese is beginner’s level) this blogger seems to come close to catching the spirit of the song. Of all the versions I’ve heard, I’m fondest of Maria Bethânia’s, released a decade ago as part of her homage to de Morais.

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