|Ary Evangelista Barroso|
|Born, Nov. 7, 1903, in Ubá, Minas Gerais|
|Died, Feb. 9, 1964, Rio de Janeiro, RJ|
"Bahia" ("Na Baixa do Sapateiro") and "Brazil" ("Aquarela do Brasil") are hits in any elevator or concert hall in the world until today. Do you remember any show by a foreign singer when at the moment "hello Brazil!" was uttered, the chosen song to be "executed" (literally) wasn't the poor "Aquarela"? (although I saw an unforgettable spectacular at the Chinese Community Cultural Center in Miami, where the hit was "Cidade Maravilhosa" but, don't ask me what I was doing there).
And it isn't for the unanimity around his work as a composer that Ary is history. If it wasn't Ary Barroso, his name would have been "many". Piano player, he coined an economic style that reverberated to figures so important as his friend Tom Jobim. As a composer of songs or shows, he worked less than the already mentioned Sinhô. Councilman, he was one of the people responsible for the construction of the dream stadium called Maracanã, that, at the time, prompted laughs when someone would say that one day it would sell out. Besides this, he tried in vain to implant in the Rio de Janeiro of his time an idea completely ridiculous: selective trash pickup.
As a newspaper columnist, he didn't come to the level of his public enemy number one, Antônio Maria, but he came out well in heated journalistic discussions. And generally against Maria himself. That, by the way, was always another particular characteristic of Ary's: he knocked down without the slightest compassion any beliefs different from his with the same passion with which he fought his entire life for musical royalties.
And there is more: as a radio and TV man, he always appeared on successful programs. In the most legendary program, Calouros em Desfile (similar to Star Search in the U.S.), he terrorized stardom candidates, but it was a guarantee of success for those who really had the right stuff. Elza Soares, dirt poor, was introduced on the show. Very skinny, and disheveled, with a borrowed dress much larger than she was, Ary teased her: "What planet are you from?" She, without embarrassment: "Planet Hungry, Ary". She sung, shined, and still managed an unprecedented victory.
Still, another candidate said that he was going to sing a "sambinha" (a little samba) by the program's announcer. He was almost slapped in the face because Ary believed he was putting his work down. Another was ready to play music from Tom and Vinicius. But, since the poet and diplomat was then much more famous than the young composer, the stardom candidate started to play: "Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você", by Vinicius de Moraes. Ary, the old fighter for royalties, interrupted him furiously: "But Vinicius?!? And Tom?"
Between one thing and another, the prodigal son Lúcio Alves, and an excellent choro and accordion player named Luiz Gonzaga were introduced on the display, among others. Not to mention the importance of Ary in launching musical careers, which were difficult to undertake, like that of the eternal diva
Elizeth Cardoso. But Ary, gave the most energy and passion to Flamengo (the most popular soccer team in Rio). More than being a composer, Ary's entire being was ruby-black (the colors of Flamengo).
This passion for sports didn't grow cold, not even when, microphone on the field, Ary transmitted soccer games on Rio's radio stations. As a matter of fact, as a commentator, he transformed a job, until then boring and bureaucratic, into a torrent of emotions. He became even more passionate if one side of the field had the colors of his beloved Flamengo. He rooted shamelessly for his team. And he played his harmonica, which was his trademark whenever there was a goal. A goal from the opposing team deserved only a quick pass on the instrument. A goal by Flamengo also had Edu, the harmonica player besides Ary.
The custom of the harmonica didn't stop Ary's other radical inventions that ended up incorporated into the transmission of soccer games until today—no one remembers anymore who had the original idea. For example, color commentator, Ary was the first one. The idea of a field reporter, microphone in hand in search of the first words of the goalmaker, was his idea. Not to mention that nothing stopped the relentless commentator. He even transmitted games from rooftops.
But with all of this, Ary never stopped being, before anything else, an ardent Flamengo fan. Because of this, when he was commentator for the games of his team, listeners didn't think it strange when he went on the playing field to swear at the referee, abandoned the microphone to motivate players, or even to lend his tie to a player called Jaz to serve as a splint, when he hurt his collarbone in a move against the opposing team.
Ary was the first-born of the Evangelista family, born in an Ubá that in 1903 was a lost wilderness in the interior of planet Minas. But this didn't hamper his father, João Evangelista, who was a typical bon vivant of the belle époque in Minas: poet, guitar player, singer, bohemian and lawyer.
Like father, like son. Twenty some years later, little Ary—the only son—was already an acclaimed lyric writer, piano player, samba composer, bohemian and... bachelor in law. Only he never practiced law.
(Un)fortunately, João Evangelista never saw the accolades of his son, since he and his wife died when Ary was a miserable seven years old. An orphan, he was then raised by his aunt and grandmother. And Aunt Rita wanted him because she wanted him to be a famous concert pianist. From when he was ten years old, the poor boy was subjected to a mandatory daily three hours of piano lessons. Until his death, he always remembered those hours as the worst of his life. But, it gave him a livelihood. He had such a talent for piano playing that when he was 12 years old, in 1915, he was already working in the movie theater in Ubá, playing accompaniment for the films that were shown there.
This remainder of his poor and orphaned childhood, followed by the same type of adolescence, fully justified all the extravagances that he would commit years later, like the red piano decorated with a Chinese theme and yellow mohair that he had in the middle of his living room. His home also had a pool that was made to resemble a tropical lagoon covered with tiles designed like the sheet music of "Aquarela do Brasil."
But luck smiled on him for the first time long before this. He was 17 years old when a beloved uncle died and had designated him heir to a small fortune. Of course, it was not the moment to receive a large amount of money. With the excuse of studying law, the boy sent himself to Rio de Janeiro and into the revelry. In two years, he had meticulously spent every nickel. If it was up to him, there wouldn't have been a poor prostitute or a waiter without a big tip in Rio in the beginning of the 1920s.
With all his money spent, the only solution was to think back to his aunt's piano lessons and, playing piano, try to raise some cash to pay for his schooling and boarding house rent. He played in cinemas, cabarets, large and small orchestras, he toured, and little by little, he became famous. During this time, two new interests opened up for him. The first was musical theater, then living its' golden era. He entered in this parade in grand style, lead by two experts in the field: Olegário Mariano and Luís Peixoto.
He participated in more than 60 works, in several of them writing the script, the plot, and the music. From then on, Luís Peixoto—old enough to be his father—would become his steadiest partner, lyric writer of marvels of the caliber of "Na Batucada da Vida" or "Camisa Amarela." With the union of these two talents, popular music would have to wait until Chico Buarque for a composer (or a pair of them) to once again attain such subtlety in the treatment in the feminine side of music—Assis Valente doesn't count since in the feminine side he reached astronomic proportions.
But we were talking about two fronts. The second was 13 years old, was called Ivone, and was the daughter of the owner of the boarding house where Ary lived. The family did all it could to avoid the infanticide, but the two wouldn't come unglued until they were married, which happened in 1929, the same year that Ary finally finished law school and his first successes took place. "Vamos Deixar de Intimidade" was a samba done in the style of a maxixe (dance that preceded the samba), strongly influenced by Sinhô, who was still the King of Samba. And the original recording of "Vamos Deixar" was done by the best singer of Sinhô, a graduate from the same group as Ary's: Mário Reis.
The other success was "Dá Nela," a novel little march. It was so different, that it won first prize in a contest for songs for the 1930 Carnaval. It was with money from these first hits that the young newlyweds found courage for the daring matrimonial union. And also for the daring decision to put the diploma of the head of the house in a drawer, to the despair of the families of both the bride and the groom.
But in the short space of time between 1931 and 1934, Ary would prove that he was more than right: he rapidly defined his style, a tremendous innovator for the time, he created his first dozen masterpieces. With them, he stood firm alongside Noel Rosa as the greatest genius of this upcoming new generation. While Noel was a gifted innovator of lyrics in popular songs, Ary incorporated the lessons of his friend and still made his own revolution in the musical part. Among other things, the crop of music given birth to in this short space of four years is the principal reference source to define what would be samba for the next millennium.
"Rancho Fundo," "Maria," "Caco Velho," and "Tu" are all diamonds from this time as well as the never forgotten "Na Batucada da Vida". Not to mention "Faceira," which Ary classified as the first samba with "telecoteco". Or rather: the first pure samba, totally free of influences from the maxixe and from the batucada of the morros of the Cariocas (search for the original recording, with Sílvio Caldas, still young and with the breques of percussionist Luciano Perrone—the same guy that suggested to Radamés Gnatalli the original arrangement of "Aquarela do Brasil").
That cited musical ripening of Ary as a composer was a dizzying business. Just a few months separated the three chords of "Vamos Deixar de Intimidade" (and you thought that three chords just belonged to rock'n'roll?!?) to complex, linked, swinging melodies, in his next compositions. From these first mature songs, only Custódio Mesquita and, much later, Tom Jobim, would be on the same level as Ary.
His entrance into radio took place in 1933, as a simple figure. In a short time, he was writer, humorist, presenter, reporter, producer, piano player, master of ceremonies, interviewer, football commentator and narrator. Only the legendary Almirante was more daring than him. Ary did the most he could, having one successful program after the next. Calouros em Desfile and Encontro com Ary were popular for years on end.
There is the story that one rainy night in August of 1939, Ary was in his living room, chatting with his wife and a couple who were in-laws. Suddenly, he got up from the sofa and said, going towards the piano (that very one, red with yellow): "I'm going to compose a samba full of innovations." He began imitating on the keys the beat of a tambourine, and a half hour later, the music and lyrics were done. His brother-in-law was the first to voice a complaint that would follow the song until today: "A coconut palm that has coconuts, Ary? What did you expect it to have?!?" Ary didn't respond, which he never would do, when people would make jokes about this very phrase.
He, clever like he always was, knew that he was inventing a style, a glorified samba. With his lyrics, that sung of the good and beautiful of Brazil, he was inaugurating a new era in a time where marches and sambas, as Noel Rosa would say, were only about women, vagrancy, and lack of money. To celebrate, he drank a whole bottle of wine. Then, he sat down at the piano again, and promptly created the equally polished "Três Lágrimas."
He could have retired right then and there.
Two years before, in 1937, Getúlio Vargas decided that he so much liked the business of being president, that he was going to stay in the job for some time. At a time when populist dictatorships were in vogue, like Hitler and Mussolini, he didn't stray from the mode and like his cohorts in Germany and Italy, he decided to heavily use nationalism as the government's foundation.
As principal weapons, he made a heavy investment in culture—and cultural industries—and in censorship. One would watch out for the other. Getúlio filled the airwaves with propaganda. Later, through a complicated transaction, he would buy Rádio Nacional, which for years would be the largest in the country, almost supreme.
Radio, that sprang up amateurish and erudite in the previous decade, started to grow tremendously from 1932 on, when the government removed publicity control. It was to avoid the danger of deviations in his nationalism and unification goal, that Getúlio founded the DIP—Department of Press and Propaganda. It's there in the minutes of its foundation: "Its function is not just to supervise broadcasting in the country, but to also guide Brazilian radio in its cultural, social, and political activities".
And then, almost a coincidence, near the end of 1939, "Aquarela do Brasil" won first prize in a popular music contest sponsored by—guess—the DIP itself. A new phase was inaugurated in popular Brazilian music: glorified national pride and the witch hunt for vagabondism, enemy of Getúlio's plans for growth and development.
The fact is that it was never discovered if "Aquarela do Brasil" was composed or not under Getúlio's orders. It's always good to remember that Ary was a steady customer of the expenditures of Rádio Nacional, but, on the other hand, some of the lyrics in his music had problems with censorship. But what was important were the verses that sung of the loveliness of Brazil—and rescued the forgotten term "melancholy" that, to the contrary of what was already said, wasn't Ary's invention. Verses that ended up falling into the graces of the most popular singer of the time: Francisco Alves, the King of Song.
He heard the song in its debut, in musical theater, sung by Aracy Cortes and Cândido Botelho. Alves, who had a great sense of success, was delighted. On August 18, 1939, still "hot from the oven" in Ary's living room, "Aquarela" went on acetate for the first time. And with pomp and circumstance: Besides the "King", the studio held an immense orchestra directed by a Gaúcho conductor who was becoming famous in the capital: Radamés Gnatalli. It was the beginning for the music that would be the most well-known Brazilian song in Brazil and abroad, together with four or five songs by Jobim. But, more than any other Carioca song by Tom, "Aquarela" was transformed into a type of alternative Brazilian national anthem.
An interesting fact from this first recording is that the arrangement was so elaborate and full of orchestrations that it took up two sides of a 78 rpm. Six minutes of the best music produced then, dominated in a big way by the greatest riff created by Radamés and his percussionist, Luciano Perrone: the celebrated tchan-tchan-tchan, tchan-tchan-tchan-TCHÃ!. Music so beautiful, creative, epic and, at the same time, so useful to the interests of the time, that it could only be successful. And it was. Internationally.
Walt Disney, in a courtesy visit to Brazil—a part of the ill-fated politics of the Good Neighbor policy of Roosevelt at the time of World War II—heard the song, badly played, in a hotel in Bahia. He was searching for inspirations for future Brazilian characters, and was delighted with the music. The music was exactly what Walt needed. A few months later, Ary left for the United States, with his "Aquarela" competing for the Oscar for Best Song. "Brazil," the song, had been included in the musical score of Disney's 1943 film, Saludos, Amigos (Alô, Amigos in Brazil), and was the greatest success. So much so, that Republic Pictures decided to ask him to spend a spell in Hollywood to write music for a new film that would be called Brazil.
He went, wrote the music, and was able to confer the success that the song Brazil was having there. To boot, he watched the pre-debut of "Bahia" ("Na Baixa do Sapateiro") and "Os Quindins de Iaiá," sung by Aurora Miranda in The Three Caballeros (Você Já Foi à Bahia?), another Disney film. He also was seen so much with Carmen Miranda that the news services announced that the two were married—that left Ary in the position of an international bigamist. Also, he became friends with Benny Goodman, with whom he listened to records by the Brazilian saxophonist Lums Americano—that Goodman swore was one of the best in the world. He even watched the Oscar ceremonies, sympathizing with the humiliating defeat of Humphrey Bogart, who was the favorite for Best Actor for Casablanca.
At the end of the year, Ary would return again to Hollywood, this time to write the music for Three Little Girls in Blue, an eccentric story taking place in a Brazil that only existed in the heads of Hollywood producers. Fortunately for Brazilians, unfortunately for Ary, the film ended up never being made. Not to say, however, that he returned from Hollywood with empty hands, for he had the honor of being paid homage to by this very Hollywood.
On the 31st of December, 1944, Ary Barroso received the Merit Award of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences for the samba "Rio de Janeiro," from the musical score of the film Brazil. There were even people who were confused and thought he had won the Oscar... The fact is that Ary could have done very well in Hollywood as well as on Broadway. He didn't want to move to the States, and look what Disney lost. "Don't have Flamengo" was his usual response. Even pleading from his friend and mega-star Carmen Miranda or from Aloysio de Oliveira, leader of the Moon Band and Disney consultant on the subject of Latin Music, didn't help.
In this more than half century, "Aquarela" had hundreds of re-recordings, in places that never saw a troubadour, much less one returning a second time. In the Philippines alone, three versions were made. The song is among the 20 most recorded songs in history, together with "Something" by George Harrison and "Garota de Ipanema" by Tom Jobim. As a matter of fact, not just "Aquarela do Brasil" ("Brazil.") The song "Na Baixa do Sapateiro" ("Bahia") in 1945 had already entered in the select club of songs played on the radio more than two million times in the United States.
It was a club with the already mentioned "Garota de Ipanema," plus "Meditação" and "Desafinado," also by Jobim. After all, just in Brazil, there were more than a hundred versions. It wouldn't be right to forget, besides the original version by Chico Alves, the "afro" of Elis Regina—on the record Saudades do Brasil—and the pop of Gal Costa—in her Ary songbook called Aquarela. And, of course, the bossa reinvented by the trio of João Gilberto, Caetano & Gil, in the colossal record Brazil.
In 1946, at the height of his popularity, Ary took a risk and was the councilman who received the most votes in what was the first direct election for councilmen in the Rio city council, during the time that Rio was the national capital. His party was the UDN (União Democrática Nacional—Democratic National Union), which opposed the PTB (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro—Brazilian Labor Party) of Getúlio Vargas.
He was relentless in speeches in the council, and for everything else that we already discussed in the beginning of this text. At the same time, because of his "charismatic" performances, he began to travel out of the country with his life's dream: The Brazilian Rhythms Orchestra. There were new invitations to stay, this time coming from Mexico and Argentina, but they didn't have Flamengo either.
In 1955, he won the National Order of Merit, the greatest honor given by the Brazilian government. At his side, also carrying the same award, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)—who, they say became very angry to have to share the homage with a composer of sambas and marches. Around this same time, besides continuing with his radio work, he began appearing on TV and he increased his political activities for Flamengo's Board of Directors.
He slept little, making a mandatory nightly "patrol" that would make any bohemian jealous. Because of this, he composed less than in previous decades, but with no change in quality. "Risque" is from 1952 and "É Luxo Só" from 1957.
In 1958, Jobim, João Gilberto and Vinicius de Moraes founded the bossa nova. He was already a fan of Tom's. "That Tom Jobim is a genius," he used to say to anyone who would listen. Vinicius he knew from when they had cocktails in Carmen Miranda's mansion in Beverly Hills—maybe even before. And João Gilberto... well, João spent his entire life recording Ary's songs. There was no way he couldn't like the young men in this group, though some were pretty less than traditional. However, more or less obstinate critics of what then became known as the Velha Guarda, they were unanimous in saving Ary and Caymmi from this basket. Then, his old friend Aloysio de Oliveira returned to Brazil and became the number one producer of records for this group of men.
So, instead of being bitter with the fact of losing the Brazilian vanguard movement, Ary decided to support it. There is a classic photo that has Ary, Tom, Ronaldo Bôscoli and Carlinhos Lyra in a totem position, Ary hovering on top of everyone. And Ary didn't get tired of praising the boys. Actually, what they were doing didn't stop being samba. It was new and sophisticated, but samba. It didn't have anything to do with the sticky boleros and guarânias and that the music of the time was immersed in and that made the almost already old composer feel hopeless.
But the fact of nurturing the new movement didn't help in being successful. Because of his furious fight for authors' rights, radio programmers were, more than ever, boycotting his music. When he saw that this was happening, Ary as usual, kept talking, so, the boycott grew. But this didn't stop him. He continued working a lot and drinking bottles of whiskey in his nightly travels. Not to mention that he was sleeping an average of four hours a night. "The doctor told me to drink whiskey with soda, and moderately. I drink it straight. And almost with moderation". Little by little, his health was crumbling. One day, in the bathroom of a nightclub, he arrived at the sad conclusion: "when I arrived in Rio, I wrote my full name—Ary Evangelista Barroso—with a piss in the sand in Copacabana. Now, I can't even move a mothball."
A box of Black and White to whom can visualize the word cirrhosis entering the story. From 1961 on, there were three long years of difficult crisis and long convalesces. But Ary was still full of happiness. It was the night of February 9th, 1964, the eve of the military coup, and Império Serrano samba school was entering the avenue, with the theme "Aquarela do Brasil", in homage to the greatest pre-Jobim composer. Only they paraded in mourning and late. They started at 10:00 p.m. At 9:50 a telephone message let them know that Ary had just been struck by a heart attack. The homage had been too much emotion for an already troubled body. Foolish irony.
1953—Orlando Silva Canta Ary Barroso—Copacabana. First record with Ary's songs. Absolute rarity
1954—Sílvio Caldas Canta Ary Barroso—Rádio. Another rarity
1956—Ary Barroso pelo Trio Surdina—Polydor. The Trio Surdina was perhaps the most important instrumental group of the 1950s. It had three absolute geniuses: Fafá Lemos on the violin, the legendary Garoto on the guitar, and their perpetual partner Radamés Gnatalli Chiquinho on the accordion. The record is dated with the static of the time, but maybe this is delightful in itself
1956—Encontro com Ary—Copacabana. Rare jewel. Brilliant idea—the record has the atmosphere of a radio program, where Ary, seated at the piano, played his songs, dared to sing one thing or another, and mostly, confirmed his fame as an excellent talker. It's a ten on any "Unplugged" from MTV
1957—Garoto, Orquestra e Coro Tocam Ary—Odeon. Garoto was the greatest violinist of his time, an innovator, said by many to be forerunner of the bossa-nova. Also, he was part of the already mentioned Trio Surdina
1958—Ary Caymmi & Dorival Barroso—Odeon. Production by the genius Aloysio de Oliveira, for his Elenco label. Half of the tracks have Ary's frugal piano accompanied by bass and percussion, playing the best pearls of Caymmi. The other songs bring the Bahian, voice and guitar, showing very personal versions of Ary's sambas. A real luxury
1959—Meu Brasil Brasileiro (c/Orquestra de Ary)—Odeon. The orchestra of Ary Barroso, one of the best that Brazil ever had, with arrangements by the genius, Leo Peracchi. This record is unbelievable for various reasons. Just two are the stupendous recording quality and the arrangement on "Na Baixa do Sapateiro"—very ahead of its time and enough to make Stan Kenton envious. As a bonus, this record has dry swing of Ary's piano playing. The record has one or two worn out choruses, but they are things of the 1950s
1962—Dois Amigos: Ernani Filho Canta Ary Barroso—Odeon. Ernani was one of the biggest friends that Ary had at the end of his life. Much younger, he was fruitlessly nurtured by the older man. But, he didn't sing bad
19??—Aquarela do Brasil—Ary's songbook by Gal Costa. Re-released on CD, it's a masterpiece of good taste. Gal opted for the modern side of the composer, with almost pop versions in some cases, but always sensible. Her interpretation of "Faceira Só Não" is definitive because of the original, with Sílvio Caldas and the percussionist Luciano Perrone giving the music a real swing. When the record came out, it sold a lot and played over and over again on the radio, reminding many people of Ary Barroso
1989—Ary Barroso—Série Grandes Autores da MPB—Polygram;
1991—Ary Amoroso—An Ary songbook by the divine Elizeth, recorded a little before her death. Also, re-released on CD. Immersed in her masterful elegance, Elizeth called Rafael Rabello, Maurício Carrilho, Marcos Suzano and a few more along the same caliber to make this definitive CD with her. If you could only buy one record to hear Ary's music, don't even blink before deciding on this one. Without a doubt, Ary would do the same, he who spent his life bestowing Elizeth with all types of praise. The medley of Caco Velho with "Na Batucada da Vida" is fabulous.
The only other rendition at the same level is from Elis (Regina) from the 1974 album Elis, which is also worth a listen.
1993—Ary Barroso—Fundação AABB (three record set). This one you will have to work to find, but it's worth it. The record didn't have a commercial release as the Bank of Brazil Athletic Association distributed it as a year-end gift. But just the tracks with the singer Roberto Paiva are worth the search. Paiva—as Caetano (Veloso) remembered in Tropicália II—who was lost between Mário Reis and João Gilberto, and, at the time of the recording, still was in top form. Besides this, some of the musicians who accompanied the singers were from Ary's own orchestra. Ask you manager to search the archives of the Bank if you haven't closed your account.
1993—O Mais Brasileiro dos Brasileiros—Revivendo. For who has come to the end of the original recordings of Ary's time, this is the ticket. Ary `s best songs, recorded between the end of the 1920s and the 1940s. Just the legendary recording of "Aquarela" with the arrangement by Radamés is worth the purchase. But this CD has much more. It's second best, after Ary Amoroso
1995—Songbooks Ary Barroso (three separate CDs)—Lumiar. Beautiful
series of CDs. They have the best in popular Brazilian music, from Tom
Jobim and Dorival Caymmi to Dino Sete Cordas and Carmen Costa, singing
a repertoire from Ary's well-known standards to some of his almost unknown
songs, with arrangements done by the best in the business. It should be
a part of any music collection. It is one of Lumiar's best works.
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