"Mark: Now comes the "millionth time question": How did you start singing professionally? How did it come about?

A.G.: In my mid-teens I befriended a group of young people best described as a musical "clan", with whom I hang out on almost daily basis. All of them became famous eventually; some nationally, some internationally. Part of this group were: Nara Leao (who was my best friend and actually became a famous singer), songwriters Carlos Lyra, Oscar Castro Neves, Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Boscoli (who was also a well known journalist, and the older in the group). It was Nara who introduced me to Joao Gilberto, our group's musical "guru", to whom I got married to, a few months after we had met.

As you know, I was still married to Joao Gilberto at the time of the recording of "The Girl from Ipanema". Before the recording, I had never sung professionally. I'd like to emphasize to those of you who have read the distorted version that I was "just a housewife until Stan Getz or Creed Taylor 'discovered' me", that although I had not yet performed "for hire", I've had already some experience as a vocalist stemming from the few years that I had been singing at gatherings with this clan of musicians. Then, of course, I had also acquired experience from the teachings and daily musical "sessions" with the "master", himself, Joao Gilberto…

After I got together with Joao, the clan grew larger, to include "older" folks such as Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Bene Nunes, Luis Bonfa and Joao Donato, and of course, their respective "other halves". Joao Gilberto and I used to sing duets, or he would accompany me on guitar. Friends would always request that I sing at these gatherings, as well as at our own home when they would come to visit us.


In 1963 I came to the US with Joao, as he had a commitment to record the Getz Gilberto album. Prior to that, only once (in 1960), I performed in public with Joao (although not "for hire"), at a famous concert that took place at the "Faculdade de Arquitetura do Rio de Janeiro", one of Rio's best known Universities, and sung two songs accompanied by Joao. This was a musically historical show, not only because it solidified the popularity of "bossa-nova" style of music within Rio's elite's youth, but because it also presented for the first time several names that subsequently became famous (besides myself).

Fast forward now to 1963: One day, a few hours prior to Stan Getz coming to our NYC hotel for a scheduled rehearsal with Joao, he (Joao) told me with an air of mystery in his voice: - "Today there will be a surprise for you". I begged him to tell me what it was, but he adamantly refused, and would just say: - "Wait and see…" Later on, while rehearsing with Stan, as they were in the midst of going over the song "The Girl from Ipanema", Joao casually asked me to join in, and sing a chorus in English, after he had just sung the first chorus in Portuguese. So, I did just that. When we were finished performing the song, Joao turned to Stan, and said (in "Tarzan" English) something like: "Tomorrow Astrud sing on record… what do you think?" Stan was very receptive, in fact very enthusiastic; he said it was a great idea. The rest, of course, as one would say, "is history". I'll never forget that while we were listening back to the just recorded song at the studio's control room, Stan said to me, with a very dramatic expression: "This song is going to make you famous".

The funny thing is that after my success, stories became abound as to Stan Getz or Creed Taylor having "discovered me", when in fact, nothing is further from the truth. I guess it may have made them look "important" to have been the one that had the "wisdom" to recognize talent or "potential" in my singing… I suppose I should feel flattered by the importance that they lend to this, but I can't help but to feel annoyed at the fact that they resorted to lying!

Carol: But that sort of thing, meaning these stories of "stars being discovered", they were very prevalent in those days, were they not?

AG: Oh yeah, Carol, that's a good point! Very keen observation! In those days, much more so than now, the Press and the public at large thrived on these stories about movie stars being discovered at drugstores, and the idea of a "housewife" suddenly becoming a well known singer, was a good selling promotional campaign for Verve Records (laughs). So Verve, paradoxically, put out the "information" sometimes of me having been discovered by Stan, and sometimes by Creed Taylor! I have no idea why they were inconsistent in their story telling…

Jeff: Did you, at the time, contest these versions, when interviewed?

AG: In a way I did, although not in a confrontational manner. But, I did tell the real story many times at different interviews. However, I did not have a "publicity machine" behind my story, in spite of it being the truth. I guess the true story was too simple and too logical to have promotional "impact".

Linda: Did you enjoy recording it?

AG: Yes, very much so… I always loved to sing. I was a bit nervous; first time at a recording studio… But, at the same time, I felt very reassured by the presence of my husband, Joao and of Jobim, who at the time was a supportive friend."


To read Astrud Gilberto's biography, click on "Biography"  link on the index, atop this page



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