Astrud Gilberto, the renowned Brazilian singer famous for her captivating rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema,” has passed away at the age of 83. Although she had no prior experience in the recording industry, Gilberto’s dreamy interpretation of the song became the most beloved version, firmly establishing her as a significant figure in Brazilian music.
The news of Gilberto’s death was confirmed by Paul Ricci, a collaborator of Gilberto, who shared the announcement on social media. He revealed that Marcelo, Gilberto’s son, had asked him to share the sad news. Ricci also expressed his admiration for Gilberto, stating that she played a crucial role in Brazilian music and had a transformative impact on many lives with her vibrant energy.
Born in 1940 in Bahia, Brazil, Gilberto was raised in Rio de Janeiro. She married musician João Gilberto in 1959. In 1963, she accompanied him on a trip to New York, where he intended to record with jazz artist Stan Getz and fellow Brazilian bossa nova star Antônio Carlos Jobim. The producer of the session sought an English-language singer to help popularize “The Girl from Ipanema” among the American audience, and Gilberto, despite lacking any prior recording experience, was the only person fluent in English.
Initially, the song was recorded as a duet with her husband, but Gilberto did not receive credit for her contribution and was excluded from the royalties. She only received a small fee as a session musician. However, when “The Girl from Ipanema” was re-edited without João’s Portuguese-language vocals and released as a solo single, it became a massive hit in 1964. The song reached the top five on the US charts and the top 30 in the UK. It even won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, and Gilberto received a nomination for Best Vocal Performance by a Female. In the same year, she and João divorced, and she embarked on a challenging journey, touring the US with Stan Getz and his band while navigating the difficulties of being a single mother and pursuing a demanding career.
Despite “The Girl from Ipanema” being her only major hit, the song resurfaced in the UK charts in 1984, as bossa nova experienced a revival, popularized by artists like Everything But the Girl and Sade. Gilberto continued to cultivate a devoted fan base through a series of solo albums on the jazz label Verve, starting with 1965’s “The Astrud Gilberto Album.” She collaborated with renowned trumpeter Chet Baker and remained active in touring until 2002. In recognition of her significant contributions to music, Gilberto received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Grammys in 2008.