RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – João Gilberto died this Saturday, July 6th, at the age of 88. A pioneer of Bossa Nova, the world-famous musician died at home in Rio de Janeiro. He had been facing illness for some years.

In 1961, João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira completed the trilogy of fundamental albums that introduced bossa nova to the world: “Chega de saudade” (1959), “O amor, o sorriso e a flor” (1960), and “João Gilberto” (1961).

The album that set the beginning of the genre in 1959, “Chega de saudade”, features a song with the same name composed by Tom Jobim and Viníicius de Moraes.

João Gilberto was born in Juazeiro, Bahia, on June 10th, 1931. The state government declared three days of mourning for his death.

After a few years living in Aracaju (Sergipe), where he started playing in the school band, he returned to his hometown and, at the age of fourteen, his father gave him his first guitar.

After recognition, he released his own compositions and followed with concerts and records that became works of art, such as “Amoroso”, an album recorded in the United States between 1976 and 1977 under the Warner Music label.

The album was re-released in Brazil in an extended format during the celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of Bossa Nova. The collection celebrates the harmonious encounter of the Brazilian artist with German maestro Claus Ogerman.

João’s production was the subject of a legal dispute in 2018. The singer’s defense called for a review of the remuneration paid him by EMI Records, now controlled by Universal Music.

Joao Gilbert was the embodiment of Brazilian Bossa Nova par excellence.
João Gilberto was the embodiment of Brazilian Bossa Nova. (Photo internet reproduction)

In 2015, the Superior Federal Court (STJ) banned the company from selling the artist’s records without his consent. Universal is not commenting on the case.

A School Drop-out Determined to Conquer the World

Around the age of 16, he dropped out of school to devote himself to music after moving to Salvador (BA).

Years later, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he was invited to be part of the group Garotos da Lua.

After leaving the group, he recorded a few singles, just before creating the distinctive bossa nova beat, but failed to succeed.

After some time spent studying harmony in music, he realized that by singing lower and keeping the beat, he could advance or delay the singing. This new period impressed composer Roberto Menescal, who introduced him to people such as music producer Ronaldo Bôscoli.

Tom Jobim regarded this new style as a means of modernizing samba by simplifying its rhythm and decided to present João with “Chega de Saudade”, a song he had written with Vinicius de Moraes, but whose sales had stalled.


  1. I am very sorry to hear of the death of Joao. It was mentioned on the program CBS Sunday Morning. I have a few of his recordings. To me he was the epitome of Bossa Nova. Such a great voice. He will truly be missed.
    From St. Louis, Missouri


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