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Saucy Inconformist

"We don't need anyone anymore. The same people who enslaved us invented the technology that liberated us. Now I am "www". (August '96)

"I've been waiting for a great love. Meanwhile I stick around practicing so I won't forget how to do it." (May '93)

"In the Globo TV soap operas, blacks only get in the kitchen." (November '92)

"I had my course of roguery and drugs in the U.S. I learned it all and very early because over there everybody snorts, everybody takes it, everybody burns pot, fucks, takes syrup and balls." (February '91)

"With two whiskey bottles I want to see which bouncer can hold me. I'll bite their ears off." (January '89)

"Thank you. With this money I'm going to buy myself a Sony machine." (On receiving a Sharp Award for life achievement)

"I don't burn, I don't snort, and I don't drink. My only problem is that sometimes I lie a little." (Often said with a joint in hand)

Personification of the soul and funk in Brazil, this colorful, controversial, much-loved and much-hated character deserves a place in the hall of fame of the best MPB (Música Popular Brasileira—Brazilian Popular Music) musicians. With typical irreverence Tim Maia so described the formula for his soul-music-style success: "Half of my songs are armpit warmers and the other half underwear soilers."

He died on March 15, at the age of 55, after an agony that lasted one week at the ITU of Niterói's Hospital Universitário Antônio Pedro. He was on stage singing the first song of his show, "Não Quero Dinheiro, Só Quero Amar" (I Want No Money, I Just Want to Love), when he started feeling ill and was taken in a hurry to the hospital.

Sebastião Rodrigues Maia was born in Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, on September 28, 1942. He was the 18th in a family of 19 siblings. At six he started to help the family by delivering the homemade food prepared by his mother, Maria Imaculada Maia. Tim learned to play guitar as a child and he was 15 when he formed his first band, The Sputniks, with Roberto Carlos, an unknown who would later receive the epithet of King and become the most lasting best-selling recording artist in the country.

The group was short lived though. In 1957, with $12 bucks in his pocket and no knowledge of English, the singer decided to make America. He lied that he was a student to the immigration authorities and adopted the name of Jimmy, for Tim's dream was to make movies, but living by himself in New York, he washed dishes, helped in a house for the elderly, played in small bands, created his own group (The Ideals) and even robbed to survive. In 1964, the US Immigration caught up with him and sent the singer back to Brazil after he was condemned for smoking pot and served six months in prison. He was by then 21, had acquired a taste for soul and funk, and had become fluent in English.

Back in Brazil, he was ostracized getting his first chance only when legendary singer Elis Regina—she died in 1982 from a lethal concoction of cocaine and whiskey—invited him in 1970 to participate on her LP, singing "These Are the Songs", in English. PolyGram signed him that the same year. His first album, Tim Maia, contained some of the hits that he would sing for the next three decades, among them: "Azul da Cor do Mar" (Blue as the Sea), and "Primavera" (Spring).

In 1971, he recorded "Gostava Tanto de Você" (I Liked You So Much), another perennial success. Other of his big hits were "Coroné Antônio Bento" (Colonel Antônio Bento), "Cristina", "A Festa do Santo Rei" (The Holy King Celebration), "Não Quero Dinheiro" (I Want No Money), "Um Dia Eu Chego Lá" (Some Day I'll Get There), "Descobridor dos Sete Mares" (The Seven Seas Discoverer), Você e Eu, Eu e Você (Juntinhos) (You and Me, Me and You (Close Together).

Nationally respected music critic Tárik de Souza called him an "apostle of musical competence. On the other hand, Tim was always a big mouth, literally and figuratively. A pot-bellied heavy weight he owned a powerful voice to sing those memorable tunes composed by him that get inside you and keep replaying themselves. He could gulp down three bottles of whiskey a day. Drugs followed him all his life.

His mouth was also a powerful machine gun that didn't spare friends or foes. He never forgave Roberto Carlos, for example, for not having helped his former partners at the Sputniks. He has also made virulent attacks against radio and TV stations accusing them of being involved in jabaculê (payola) to build and destroy musical careers. Tim became a folkloric character whom people couldn't trust.

He was famous for not showing up at his own shows and for sometimes appearing so drunk that he was not able to perform. The singer was always in the courts. In 1992, he was condemned to pay $20,000 to an agent for having missed 11 engagements. At the end, without a contract or a recording company willing to work with him, Tim had to finance and record his own discs.

Tim was also a bad employer not paying his musicians and used to threaten reporters who dared to criticize him or simply not like his work. He had at least six children. One of them he only knew when the youngster was already 17. Officially he married five times and had three sons: José Carlos, 32; Márcio, 23; and Telmo, 21.

Some critics were fast to point to the hypocrisy of Globo TV network, which had banned Tim from their station for years, but were quick to present specials and tributes to the "great musician" as soon as his heart stopped and the ratings showed it was a smart move. The TV station management forbade him from ever singing at Globo in 1993, after he didn't show up for a scheduled presentation in the Domingão do Faustão show.

Recently Tim had vowed to be a candidate for the senate in a platform of giving a voice to Blacks and children, creating an Afro-Brazilian university, and protecting musicians from the multinational recording companies. In 1988 he also talked about running for mayor of Rio de Janeiro, but he never did. "I am bicão," he used to say about himself. Bicão is slang for people who go to a party without an invitation.

Partial discography:

1974 - Tim Maia Racional

1978 - Tim Maia Disco Club (re-released in 1995 as Sossego)

1979 - Reencontro e Tim Maia (in English)

1982 - Nuvens

1983 - Descobridor dos Sete Mares

1984 - Me Dê Motivo

1985 - Tim Maia

1986 - Telefone

1987 - Somos América

1988 - Carinhos

1991 - Tim Maia Interpreta Clássicos da Bossa Nova

1992 - Ao Vivo

1993 - Tim Maia

1997 - Tim Maia e Os Cariocas, What a Wonderful World - Oldies But Goodies, Pro Meu Grande Amor, Amigo do Rei

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