November 2000

Goodbye Song

American musician Stan Getz once asked Brazilian conductor
Júlio Medaglia, "Why doesn't Baden Powell move to Europe or
the United States, where he would become the world's greatest
guitarist?" To what Medaglia answered, "Because, may be,
he's already the world's greatest guitarist."


The sounds he extracted from his guitar were magic and unique. Bossa nova owes a lot to him. His musical style at a time popular and erudite became a model for musicians all around the world. Now, his guitar is silent and the composer is not writing anymore. Baden Powell de Aquino died September 26 from pneumonia, in Rio, at age 63, after a stay of more than a month at Clínica Sorocaba. He was diabetic and had kidney problems. Much of his ailments originated in his youth when he started to drink heavily and smoke, two addictions that followed him throughout life.

He presented his last show recently. It was on August 18 at Belo Horizonte's (capital of Minas Gerais's state) Minas Tênis Clube. His two sons, Phillipe, 20, and Louis-Marcel Baden Powell, 18, are both musicians. Marcel, according to some accounts, inherited the father's talent for the guitar. Phillipe plays the piano. Baden was married for 23 years to Silvia, but he was living with Elizabeth do Carmo in the last three years. "Our project is to continue what he taught us," said Marcel. "And what he taught us was to like "Tico Tico no Fubá" as much as Bach."

Before the end of the year, recording label Trama will release the last work of the guitarist in which he interprets compositions by Noel Rosa and Dorival Caymmi, among others. Lembranças, produced by Fernando Faro was recorded in May and also contains Baden's compositions like "O Astronauta" with Vinicius de Moraes and "Falei e Disse" with Paulo César Pinheiro.

Baden Powel was born on August 6, 1937, in Varre-Sai, a little town in the state of Rio de Janeiro, 220 miles from Rio city, close to the border of Espírito Santo. His father, Lino de Aquino, a shoemaker, boy scout leader and tuba player in his free time, named the son after a man he admired: Sir Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857-1941), the British soldier who in 1908 founded de Boy Scouts. The future guitarist was still a three-month-old baby when he moved to Rio with his father, his mother Adelina and sister Vera. He lived in poor neighborhoods like Vila Isabel and São Cristóvão, famous for their talented musicians. Mr. Aquino used to receive at home legendary figures such as Pixinguinha and Donga.

He was eight, when the father, arranged for Jaime Florence—a renowned composer and guitarist—to teach Baden the guitar. The lessons went on for seven years, during which time Baden mastered his instrument and learned to love and play classical pieces. He would continue his studies later, studying harmony, composition and music theory at Rio's Escola Nacional de Música (National Music School). At 10 he got his first public recognition when he won a guitar competition at Rio's Rádio Nacional. He became a professional at 14 with a special permit from the Juvenile Court and started to play in ballrooms, nightclubs, radio and TV.

The guitarist was 18 when he started to play jazz in Rio's nightclubs. He would soon meet and become friends with such bossa nova icons as Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. His first hit came in 1956 with "Samba Triste", a tune with lyrics by Billy Blanco. He would compose another 500 tunes. With Vinicius as lyricist —he met the poetinha (little poet) in 1962—Baden composed masterpieces like "Deixa", "Samba em Prelúdio", "Consolação", "Formosa", "Berimbau", and "Samba da Bênção".

Already the Greatest

He had other worthy partnerships. With Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, he created "Samba da Partida" and with Paulo César de Carvalho, composed among other songs, "Refém da Solidão". In 1963 he caused sensation at the Paris's Olympia Theater playing Ravel while the public was expecting Carnaval tunes.

In the early sixties, American musician Stan Getz once asked conductor Júlio Medaglia, "Why doesn't Baden Powell move to Europe or the United States, where he would become the world's greatest guitarist?" To what Medaglia answered, "Because, may be, he's already the world's greatest guitarist." During the '70s he ended up leaving Brazil to live in France and Germany. He would only go back to Brazil in 1994 when he released the CD Baden Powell de Rio a Paris.

Soon after coming from France in 1964, Baden Powell went to live for six months in Salvador, Bahia. Interested in absorbing as much black popular culture as he could, the composer became an assiduous frequenter of terreiros de candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion temples) and the sound of their instruments like tambours and berimbaus would deeply influence his work. After 1997 when he became an evangelical he reneged some of the tunes composed at this time.

French writer Dominique Dreyfus, who wrote Baden Powell's biography, O Violão Vadio de Baden Powell (Baden Powell's Idle Guitar), describes the guitarist as temperamental and timid, but also sensitive and compassionate. Modest, he never mentioned his international success. He also talked to her about his drinking problem. He would sometimes disappear for days, going from one bar to the other, until the family would call the police and the radio stations to find him. His religious conversion also made him stop drinking.

What they are saying:

Billy Blanco, partner in "Samba Triste":

"The MPB (Música Popular Brasileira—Brazilian Popular Music) lost its most important and perfect guitarist. About other talents, we can say that Turíbio Santos, in erudite music, and Sebastião Tapajós, a Baden disciple, have also reached perfection. But Baden was absolute, he went well beyond the acquired technique with interminable hours of study. Baden studied so much that I used to say he was addicted do the guitar. He would wake up fingering the instrument. He wouldn't take a break to give relief to his hand in a warm water pot. They would become hardened. With Baden we cannot use that saying that no one is irreplaceable."

Singer and composer Carlos Lyra:

"Baden was at Vinicius home when he presented "Samba em Prelúdio", a tune he had just composed. Vinicius heard and liked it so much that he said that the composition was from Chopin. Baden denied but Vinicius insisted. At the end, Vinicius called one of his sisters who knew classical music very well, asked Baden to play and made de questions: "Isn't this Chopin?" She says no, Chopin had never written that music. But Vinicius still unconvinced said, "Chopin didn't make it because he forgot it. This song belongs to him." I first met Baden in a bar, in 1955. In 1959, I recorded my first LP and called him to play with me. We've never unglued from each other since that time. Baden at that time made enough only to pay the rent, he made a living playing here and there. But it was Vinicius who united us forever saying that Baden, Tom Jobim and I formed the Holy Trinity. Baden who was Garoto's heir leaves no heir."

Mário Telles, singer and composer:

"We lost a master. Baden was responsible for the creation of a style and this is not for any soldier of fortune. It was he who placed African roots in bossa nova. I hadn't seen him for 20 years, but we were partners in drinking and making music. I would say that familiarity with Baden was the reason I never attempted to learn the guitar. Pelé's friend cannot play soccer. Baden was the Pelé of the Brazilian guitar."

Júlio Medaglia, conductor and director at Teatro Municipal de São Paulo, who was Baden's producer during his Germany period, in the '70s:

"In his generation, Baden was for sure the greatest guitarist in the world. His big differential was his right hand agility, a quality that not even the best musicians from the American jazz have. American jazz players are virtuosi but with the left hand with which they juggle. Baden united both things. At the same time that he produced perfect harmonies with the left, he had a vibrant right, full of rhythmic modulations that made his guitar unique… Unfortunately, his drinking and his inconstancy harmed him a lot professionally. American musicians are completely crazy but they get an astronomical efficiency when it's time to work. Baden conciliated both hands, but he couldn't conciliate talent and professionalism. His career could have been much bigger than it was. Baden was a genius."

Music critic Tárik de Souza wrote:

"The acoustic guitar was for bossa nova what the electric guitar was for rock. And the Jimi Hendrix of this revolution was called by the scout name of Baden Powell de Aquino. He was a Garrincha [late famous soccer player] of the strings and with disconcerting dribbles (and the same ethylic combustion) in genres and styles mesmerized the world by the combination of technique, speed, dynamism, and emotional allure. Despite having made a place for himself at bossa nova's army, in partnership with poet Vinicius de Moraes, Baden was never bossanovista… He became a star in the main showrooms in Europe (mainly France and Germany), running in the opposite direction of his colleagues in the movement (João Gilberto, Luís Bonfá, Sérgio Mendes, Oscar Castro Neves, Eumir Deodato, Airto Moreira), who preferred the American market.


Suíte Afro-consolação - 1998
Baden Powell à Paris -
Live at Montreux Jazz Festival -
22 Juillet 1995/1996
Baden Powell & Filhos -
De Rio à Paris -
Décembre 94 - 1994
The Frankfurt Opera Concert -
Live in Switzerland -
Afro-sambas -
Live at the Rio Jazz Club -
Violão em Seresta -
Felicidade -
De Baden para Vinicius -
Nosso Baden -
Maria D'Apparecida et Baden Powell -
Baden Powell Canta Vinicius de Moraes e Paulo César Pinheiro -
Mélancolie: Baden Powell et Cordes -
Tristeza on Guitar -
La Grande Réunion - Baden Powell e Stephane Grappelli - Vol. 2 -
La Grande Réunion - Baden Powell e Stephane Grappelli -
Apaixonado -
Baden Powell Gravado ao Vivo em Paris -
Face au Public: Olympia
1972 - 1972
Samba Triste -
Grandezza on Guitar -
É de Lei -
Le Coeur de Baden Powell -
Le Génie de Baden Powell -
L'art de Baden Powell -
L'âme de Baden Powell -
Estudos -
Solitude on Guitar -
Baden Powell: Carinhoso -
As músicas de Baden Powell e Paulo César Pinheiro - Os Cantores da Lapinha -
Baden Powell Quartet - Vol. 3 -
Baden Powell Quartet - Vol. 2 -
Baden Powell Quartet - Vol. 1 -
Lotus -
Canto on Guitar -
Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell -
Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell - Vol. 2 -
Aquarelles du Brésil -
Baden Powell - Márcia - Os Originais -
Poema on Guitar -
Baden -
Os Afro-sambas de Baden e Vinicius -
Tempo Feliz -
Ao Vivo no Teatro Santa Rosa -
Billy Nencioli et Baden Powell -
Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell - Vol. 1 -
Baden Powell à Vontade -
Baden Powell Swings with Jimmy Pratt -
Um Violão na Madrugada -
Apresentando Baden Powell e Seu Violão -

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