Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dorival Caymmi at NY Times

Dorival Caymmi, Singer of Brazil, Is Dead at 94
by Douglas Martin
New York Times, August 19, 2008

Dorival Caymmi, a Brazilian singer and songwriter who helped lay the foundations of bossa nova, wrote Carmen Miranda's first hit and gave legendary voice to the romance of the beaches, fishing villages and bathing beauties of his native Bahia, died on Saturday at his home in Rio de Janeiro. He was 94.

The cause was multiple organ failure, according to accounts in the Brazilian news media. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, praised him as "one of the founders of Brazilian popular music."

Mr. Caymmi's career encompassed 60 years and about 20 albums, the last one released four years ago. But his influence transcended such measurable milestones and found enduring expression in the music of Brazilian greats like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

In an introduction to an anthology of Mr. Caymmi's work in 1994, Jobim, the driving force behind bossa nova, a sophisticated jazz style derived from samba, wrote: "Dorival is a universal genius. He picked up the guitar and orchestrated the world."

From the beginning of his career, Mr. Caymmi musically imbued his country with a rhythmic, romantic identity that went well with Brazil's enticing geography and sultry, bikini-clad women. His first and immediately popular song, written at 16, "O Que E Que a Baiana Tem?" ("What Is It About Brazilian Women?"), set the tone.

That song became the first hit of Carmen Miranda, whose well-displayed limbs, extravagant hats and exuberant voice made her a global sensation as the Brazilian Bombshell. In 1996, the publication News From Brazil said Mr. Caymmi taught Ms. Miranda to move her arms and hands with the music, which became her trademark.

Songs like "Marina" (1944) and "O Samba da Minha Terra" (1941) inspired the greats of bossa nova.

Mr. Caymmi's easygoing style was compared by some to that of Bing Crosby, not least because of his similar velvety baritone.

The laid-back Andy Williams and Perry Como sang Mr. Caymmi's "Das Rosas," translated as "And Roses and Roses" by the American lyricist Ray Gilbert.

Romero Lubambo, a Brazilian guitarist who lives and plays in the United States, said in an telephone interview on Monday that it was impossible to overstate Mr. Caymmi's public recognition in his own nation.

"Everybody who is alive in Brazil today has probably heard of him," he said.

Writing in The New York Times in 2001, Ben Ratliff said Mr. Caymmi was perhaps second only to Jobim "in establishing a songbook of this century's Brazilian identity." A large part of this was evoking the life and dreams of working-class people, particularly fishermen.

Dorival Caymmi was born on April 30, 1914, in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state. He had several jobs, including that of journalist, and won a songwriting contest in 1936 as part of Salvador's carnaval. Two years later he went to Rio de Janeiro to study law and perhaps look for a job as a journalist.

But he went into the music business, and firmly established himself with the song Ms. Miranda performed in the movie "Banana-da-Terra" (1939). He became a regular on Radio Nacional, and his fame grew. He recorded for five decades, both singing solo with his own guitar accompaniment and backed by bands and orchestras.

Mr. Caymmi married the singer Adelaide Tostes, who used the stage name Stella Maris. She survives him, along with their sons, Dori and Danilo, and their daughter, Nana, who are all also successful musicians.

News From Brazil reported that Mr. Caymmi's nearly 70-year marriage survived some carousing on his part. It told of his wife's finding him in a bar surrounded by women. She slammed a table, broke a glass, punched him, and left.

"He was a hard act to follow," she said, "but it was worthwhile."

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