Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian bossa nova singer best known for The Girl from Ipanema, has died aged 83.
She recorded 16 albums and collaborated with artists as diverse as Quincy Jones and George Michael while becoming one of Brazil’s biggest talents in the 1960s and 1970s.
Her version of The Girl From Ipanema sold more than five million copies and helped to popularise bossa nova.
The artist’s granddaughter Sofia Gilberto announced her passing on Instagram.
“I’m here to bring you the sad news that my grandmother became a star today, and is next to my grandfather João Gilberto,” wrote Sofia, who is also a musician.
“She was the best and a pioneer. She lent her voice to the English version of Girl from Ipanema at the age of 22, achieving international renown.
Paul Ricci, a New York-based guitarist who collaborated with Gilberto, also confirmed the news on Facebook.
He wrote, “I just learned that we lost Astrud Gilberto from her son Marcelo.” “He asked for this to be posted.
“She was a vital component of EVERY aspect of Brazilian music performed worldwide, and her spirit changed many people’s lives. RIP from ‘the chief’, as she called me.”
The BBC has contacted Gilberto’s representatives for official confirmation.
Brazilian Bossa Nova and Samba singer Astrud Gilberto and her band performing at SOB’s nightclub in New York in 1993
SOURCE OF IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES
Image caption, Brazilian Bossa Nova and Samba singer Astrud Gilberto and her band performing at SOB’s nightclub in New York in 1993
Born Astrud Evangelina Weinert in Bahia, she migrated to Rio de Janeiro at an early age and received musical inspiration from her mother’s side of the family, where “almost everyone played an instrument”.
In her mid-teens, she joined in with a group of young people she characterised as a “musical clan”, whose members included the famed vocalist Nara Leao and acclaimed guitarist João Gilberto, who helped establish bossa nova.
Astrud and Joo got married shortly after they first met, and it was their union that unintentionally launched her recording career.
In 1963, she accompanied her husband to New York to help him as a studio translator while he cut an album with jazz legend Stan Getz.
Gilberto timidly suggested she be the vocalist when the band needed someone to record the English lyrics for The Girl From Ipanema.
“Producer Creed Taylor said he wanted to get the song done right away and looked around the room,” engineer Phil Ramone told Jazzwax in 2012.
“Astrud volunteered, saying she could sing in English. Creed said, ‘Great.’ Although Astrud wasn’t a trained singer, she was the only victim present that evening.
Gilberto’s detached yet seductive vocals perfectly captured the vibe of a “tall and tan and young and lovely” girl who turns the heads of everyone she passes, despite the fact that she had little time to prepare.
The record of the year Grammy Award went to the song, which became an instant hit.
Gilberto only received the standard $120 session fee for her performance, and she wasn’t given credit on the song (which was released under the names Stan Getz and Joo Gilberto).
With 1965’s The Astrud Gilberto Album, she collaborated with legendary jazz guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim on a collection of Brazilian standards, it served as the launchpad for a lucrative solo career.
Speaking to The Independent last year, her son Marcelo claimed that Gilberto struggled with the objectification she received from the press, and often had to fight misogyny in the music industry.
In the early 2000s, Gilberto reflected on how several people had taken credit for her success with Ipanema, with Stan Getz claiming to have saved her from being a “housewife” in a blog post on her website.
“Nothing is further from the truth,” she wrote. “I suppose it might make me appear ‘important’ to have had the ‘wisdom’ to see talent or ‘potential’ in my singing… I suppose I should be flattered by the weight they give this, but I can’t help but be irritated that they used deception in the process.
In the 1970s, she began writing her own songs, as showcased on albums like Astrud Gilberto Now (1972) and That Girl From Ipanema (1977).
Picture of Astrud Gilberto taken from Getty Images
On the latter, she fulfilled a lifelong dream by teaming up with legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker to record one of her songs, Far Away, as a duet.
She established a second professional path in addition to performing, appearing in the films The Hanged Man and Get Yourself a College Girl as well as contributing to the Quincy Jones-arranged soundtrack for The Deadly Affair.
In the early 1980s, Gilberto organised a trio that featured her son Maeclo on bass and toured the world, but she mostly avoided playing in Brazil, where she believed she had not been granted the attention she deserved.
“Brazil turned its back on her,” Marcelo told The Independent. “She achieved fame abroad at a time when this was considered treasonous by the press.”
She collaborated with James Last to record a collection of traditional samba songs in Europe, and George Michael approached her to sing alongside him on a cover of Desafinado for the 1996 charity album Red Hot + Rio.
Having previously stated that “being close to the public was frightening,” she recorded her final album, Jungle, in 2002, following which she took an indefinite hiatus from performing in front of an audience.
The singer spent the majority of her later years advocating against cruelty to animals, but the legacy of her debut album endured thanks to covers by everyone from Madonna and Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse and Nat King Cole.