Brazil’s music transition into the 70s was marked by the consolidation of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira, Brazilian Popular Music) which now incorporates into its repertoire different rhythms, not only from Brazil’s different regions (such as the northeastern baião), but also from foreign countries (like Jamaican reggae). Standout artists of the 70s MPB are, among others, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Simone, Elis Regina, Rita Lee and Maria Bethânia.
The Jovem Guarda had already made its appearance in the 60s and was still very popular in the beginning of the 70s. Nevertheless, Brazil was under military dictatorship at that time, and the cultural elites accused these artists of being “alienated” from the country’s social and political problems; as a result, the movement soon lost its strength.
Without the presence of the nonchalant Jovem Guarda, a different genre of popular romantic music emerged, which would gain the pejorative epithet “cafona“, then replaced by “brega” (both words meaning “tacky”). Once the name got accepted by its fans, brega music became a trend and won a wide audience. Many artists belong to this genre, although its fame was consolidated by Waldick Soriano. Since the end of the Jovem Guarda, Roberto Carlos also approached a more romantic, brega style; nevertheless, he managed to establish his position as the country’s most popular singer.
The decade of the 70s, together with the 60s, gave some of the most beautiful and timeless songs of Brazil’s cultural legacy. I really had a hard time to choose just a few among the many great songs of this period. This is the list I finally put together:
This incredibly beautiful song (English: “I know I will love you“) was composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. Although initially recorded by Maysa, it would become a classic when performed live in Buenos Aires by Vinícius de Moraes, together with two iconic artists of Brazil’s music stage of the 70s: Vinicius’s favourite vocalist Maria Creuza and his long-time partner, singer and guitarist Toquinho. He would later include it on his 1970 album En ‘la Fusa’ con Maria Creuza y Toquinho (also known as “Grabado en Buenos Aires con Maria Creuza y Toquinho”). The amazing melody by Tom Jobim, and Vinicius’ impassioned lyrics on the immortality of love would establish “Eu sei que vou te amar” as one of Brazil’s quintessential songs. Indeed, it was voted the best Brazilian song of all times in a survey organized by Revista Bula.
33) Wilson Simonal – “País Tropical” (1970)
Over the years, the song would be increasingly credited to its author, overshadowing the success of the first version by Simonal. It has also been adapted by many composers and singers like Sergio Mendes, Ivete Sangalo, or even Shakira, but also by Jorge Ben Jor himelf, on his album Tropical in 1976.
34) Paulinho da Viola – “Foi um Rio que Passou em Minha Vida” (1970)
“It was a river that passed in my life” is the song that gives the name to the second album of carioca sambista (samba composer) Paulinho da Viola.
The song was a huge success, being sung by the masses during Rio’s carnival, and became Brazil’s biggest hit of the 1970, projecting Paulinho nationally.
35) Vinicius de Moraes and Toquinho – “Tarde em Itapoã ” (1970)
This is another fruit of Toquinho’s long partnership with Vinicius de Moraes, which would last until Vinicius death in 1980. Composer and performer with 50 years of sucessful career, Toquinho has to date 84 records released, over 450 compositions and about 8,500 shows in Brazil and abroad.
This song (“Afternoon in Itapoã”) immortalizes Itapuã as a serene, romantic and exuberant place, located 20 km from the center of Salvador de Bahia. Unfortunately, spending an afternoon in Itapuã is no longer the quiet program Vinícius and Toquinho described: the neighborhood became Salvador’s noisiest and one of the most polluted.
36) Chico Buarque – “Construção” (1971)
Brazil in the early 1970s was a land of paradoxes: under military government, the so-called “Brazilian Miracle” promised record economic growth; as a result, construction was booming. Workers though, would spend endless hours at the constructions and earned very little.
This was also a period when censorship hampered artistic freedom of expression. Fearing persecution, Chico Buarque spent a brief period of exile in Italy; but longing his beloved Brazil, he returned determined to show his disagreement with the situation. And he managed to create a masterpiece.
“Construction” is the chronicle of the life and death of a construction worker. The character of the song leaves the house, kisses his wife and children and goes to work. There he works “as if he were a machine”. Finally, he falls from the scaffolding in the middle of the street “like a package, disrupting the traffic”.
The lyrics are truly brilliant, written in dodecasyllable verses with each sentence ending with a proparoxytone word (that is, stressed on the antepenultimate syllable). The stanzas are repeated three times, with some keywords being changed position; these changes make the understanding of the lyrics ambiguous as it is not clear whether the worker dies as a result of the bad working conditions or he commits suicide, desperate in the face of his scant life prospect.
“Construction” would not be so overwhelming without the symphonic, imposing arrangement conceived by Rogério Duprat, who uses the orchestra as a sinister component, emulating the chaotic noises of the metropolis, its horns and buildings under construction.
The song is a strong critic of workers’ alienation in a modern, urban capitalist society; it is still a reference song to understand a thorny period of Brazil’s history. Deservedly, “Construção” was selected by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest Brazilian song of all times.
37) Maria Creuza – “Você Abusou ” (1971)
The Baianos Antônio Carlos and Jocáfi composed and first sung this beautiful song (“You abused”), which was successful with the sultry voice of Maria Creuza -who later married Antônio Carlos.
It became an international hit, particularly in France, where it was later adapted by Michel Fugain with the name “Fais comme l’oiseau”; other famous versions are those by Celia Cruz and Stevie Wonder.
38) Nara Leão – “Insensatez” (1971)
“How foolish” is a bossa nova song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes. The song resembles Chopin’s prelude in E minor.
It has been re-recorded many times by Brazilian and foreign artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Liberace, Iggy Pop, and Pat Metheny. Nevertheless, I love this version, performed by “the muse of bossa nova”, Nara Leão.
39) Roberto Carlos – “Detalhes” (1971)
Latin pop superstar Roberto Carlos is a major figure in Brazil – and worldwide: his popularity as romantic ballad singer is perhaps rivalled only by Julio Iglesias.
During the 60s he initiated a major revolution; in a period when the Beatles were taking over the world, Carlos became their Brazilian counterpart as the leader of the Jovem Guarda. Initially a TV show, this “Young Guard” soon became not only a musical style, but also a behavioral, fashion and language influence to an entire generation. With his light music and simple lyrics, he was a deep contrast to “serious”, “somber” MPB. Managing to pursue a successful career throughout the years, Roberto Carlos is arguably the most successful romantic artist in Brazil, gaining the title of “The King”.
Together with his longtime partner Erasmo Carlos, he composed this timeless ballad whose lyrics are, according to Rolling Stone Brazil: “…among the most beautiful in the history of music, in any of the five continents”.
40) Gal Costa – “Vapor Barato” (1971)
Arguably one of Brazil’s most amazing voices, a representative figure of the Tropicália movement, an indisputable timeless icon. Gal Costa is a star that keeps shining for over 5 decades.
Back in the 70s, things were not easy for Gal. While all her friends had gone away, exiled by the dictatorship, she decided to stay in Brazil, as part of the “resistance”. And she managed to become the muse of Tropicália with the show Gal a Todo Vapor. Directed by Wally Solomon, the show was recorded in her outstanding double album Fa-Tal.
“Vapor Barato”, included in Fa-Tal is about the disenchantment of the post-1968 years, of course expressed in a very poetical, metaphorical way so as to remain under the radar of censorship. Although now considered a timeless song, it had been almost forgotten until filmmaker Walter Salles “rescued” it by including it in the soundtrack of the film Terra Estrangeira (Foreign land).
41) Jorge Ben – “Filho Maravilha” (1972)
Brazilians’ passion for football (soccer) is not a secret; therefore, a song devoted to a football player comes to no surprise. “Filho Maravilha” is a song written by one of the most important Brazilian artists, singer and songwriter Jorge Ben (later renamed Jorge Ben Jor), and refers to Brazilian football player João Batista de Sales, better known as “Fio Maravilha”.
Always innovative and open-minded, Jorge Ben has been a member of most of the important movements of 20th Brazilian popular music. He is the author of two of the most legendary samba songs: “Mas Que Nada” and “País Tropical“.
42) Sérgio Sampaio – “Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua” (1972)
Sérgio Sampaio was not a mainstream artist. His elaborate lyrics, often with literary references (he was an admirer of Franz Kafka) did not enjoy much commercial success. Nevertheless, his enormous talent and his irreverent manners were invariably praised by critics and a selected public.
He did have one big hit, “Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua” (I want to throw my troops on the streets), a song that refers, as many songs of that period, to the military dictatorship and Sampaio’s wish that everybody goes out and express anything they had keep to themselves.
43) Milton Nascimento – “San Vicente” (1972)
Milton Nascimento is one of Brazil’s most talented and influential artists, with a sublime tenor voice “that often slips into an ethereal falsetto, (…) as that of an angel”, the New York Times once wrote.
San Vicente is one of his greatest classics; it has become an anthem, both in Brazil and other Latin America countries. Recorded in 1972 in the double collective album Clube da Esquina, it is, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful songs of the Brazilian popular songbook. Milton has interpreted it with many other artists, of which those with the remarkable Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and the Argentinian iconic singer Mercedes Sosa are just marvellous.
44) Airto Moreira – “Tombo In 7/4” (1973)
The most iconic percussionist of the 70s –and still one of the world’s greatest, Airto Moreira (or just Airto) helped make percussion an essential part of modern jazz; he has collaborated with the greatest names of jazz such as Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Chick Corea.
This song was part of his masterful 1973 album “Fingers”, and was composed together with Uruguayan artist Hugo Fattoruso. What Airto probably never imagined was that “Tombo In 7/4” would become a huge mainstream success, until German group Bellini sampled it in 1997 to create the super hit “Samba de Janeiro”.
45) Novos Baianos – “Samba da Minha Terra” (1973)
Os Novos Baianos is regarded as one of the most important and revolutionary groups in Brazilian music. They had a primordial role in the fusion of rock with Brazilian folklore rhythms, helping along the evolution of MPB. Formed in Salvador, Bahia in the late ’60s by Paulinho Boca de Cantor , Pepeu Gomes , Moraes Moreira, Baby Consuelo and Luiz Galvão.
This song belongs to their third record, Novos Baianos F. C.; it displays the enormous talent of the band, particularly through the voice and violão (acoustic guitar) of Moraes Moreira, and the electric guitar of virtuoso Pepeu Gomes.
46) Raul Seixas – “Metamorfose Ambulante” (1973)
Raul Seixas is without any doubt one of Brazil’s fundamental rock musicians. In spite of his premature death at 44 years old in 1989, “Raulzito” –his nickname- remains a strong influence to popular music and a timeless idol for Brazilian people.
His expressive and existentialist discography was heavily marked by his collaboration with the outstanding novelist Paulo Coelho. From his numerous hits I find this song (“Walking metamorphosis”) is one of the most beautiful; it was released in his acclaimed debut album Krig-ha, Bandolo!
47) Fagner – “Canteiros” (1973)
Raimundo Fagner (or just Fagner) is a singer, composer, musician, actor and music producer. He has managed to remain highly successful from the beginning of his career in the 70s till nowadays, not only in Brazil, but also abroad -particularly in Spanish-speaking countries.
During his long career he has recorded in several countries and collaborated with many international artists, leading to the release of -so far- 35 albums (the last one in 2014). This song belongs to his debut album, Manera Fru Fru, Manera.
48) Nelson Cavaquinho – “A Flor e o Espinho” (1973)
Nelson Cavaquinho is -together with Cartola- the most talented and prolific samba composer: he left 600 compositions that have been recorded by some of the greatest interpreters of Brazilian music.
Cavaquinho composed the tune for this beautiful samba and Guilherme de Brito wrote the lyrics, which are among the most heartbreaking of Brazilian music: “Get your smile out of the way, ‘cause I want to go by with my pain”. Its tone is typical of the pair, usually pessimistic about love and life.
49) Secos & Molhados – “Rosa de Hiroshima” (1973)
Formed in 1971 by Ney Matogrosso, Gerson Conrad and João Ricardo, Secos & Molhados is one of few bands who led Brazil from bossa nova through Tropicália and then to Brazilian rock. Much of the group’s success, apart from their masterful first eponymous album (one of the biggest selling phenomena of the 1970s), was their extravagant stage presence, with heavy use of makeup and dramatic elements, and of course Ney’s signature counter-tenor voice.
“Rosa de Hiroshima” was originally a poem by Vinicius de Moraes. Its very powerful lyrics are a criticism to war; the poetic tone managed to fool censorship and became a huge success during the seventies.
50) Os Originais do Samba – “Saudosa Maloca” (1973)
Appreciated for their particular blend of traditional samba and humor, Os Originais do Samba became a commercial success, achieving three gold records during their long-lasting career. Their fame in Brazil extended abroad: they were the first samba group to perform and record at the Olympia in Paris; they also performed in the USA.
This song (“Nostalgic Shed”) belongs to the great paulista composer Adoniran Barbosa; it has been performed by many artists including Adoniran himself, but this version by Os Originais do Samba is my favourite.
51) Benito De Paula – “Meu Amigo Charlie Brown” (1974)
With his fancy dressing and emotional interpretations, Benito di Paula became the father of a new samba style, which would be known as sambão-jóia, a romantic and commercial genre precursor of contemporary pagode romântico.
52) Elis Regina and Tom Jobim – “Águas de Março” (1974)
“A a stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road”… “Águas de Março” describes the beginning of the rainy season in Brazil, the month of March, which also marks the end of the summer (in the Southern Hemisphere). The element of water is a metaphor for a rebirth, a promise of life. Both the lyrics and music have a constant downward progression much like the water torrent from the rain.
Tom Jobim wrote both the English and Portuguese lyrics. Although there were previous recordings, this is the version that many consider definitive; it was recorded by Elis Regina and Tom in the album Elis & Tom.
“Águas de Março” was named as the all-time best Brazilian song in a poll conducted by the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, and the second greatest Brazilian song by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone .
53) Tim Maia – “Imunização Racional (Que Beleza)” (1975)
Musician and songwriter known for his humorous and ironic musical style, Tim Maia is regarded as one of the biggest icons of Brazilian music. Mostly acknowledged for introducing soul into Brazil’s musical scene; he also contributed to a wide variety of musical genres, such as funk, bossa nova, disco, romantic ballads, pop, rock, jazz, baião and MPB.
This song belongs to his fifth album, Tim Maia Racional Vol. 1. Although not well received by the critics at that time, it is now regarded as one of the best albums of all times, ranking 17 in Rolling Stone’s list.
54) Clara Nunes – “Juízio Final” (1975)
“Queen of Samba” Clara Nunes is considered one of the greatest of her generation. She was the first female singer in Brazil to sell over 100,000 copies of a record, and at the peak of her career she would sell more than a million copies of each album she released. Nunes was researcher of the rhythms and folklore of Brazil and the roots of black music, she even converted to Umbanda in her later life. She died in 1983 at the age of 40 years old; nevertheless, she remains one of the most popular singers in Brazil.
This song (the title means “Last Judgment”) was written by Nelson Cavaquinho, and belongs to her album Claridade.
55) Cartola – “Preciso me Encontrar” (1976)
Cartola is one of the most wronged cases of Brazilian music: he became known only at advanced age, although his songs had been often recorded by other singers. Nevertheless, he is considered one of Brazil’s quintessential artists.
This particular song, sophisticated and delicate as most of his songs, was released in his masterful second disc Cartola II. It was included in the soundtrack of the highly acclaimed film Cidade de Deus (City of God), and lately in the TV series 3%.
56) Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque – “O que Será (A Flor da Pele)” (1976)
O Que Será (What may it be?) was composed by Chico Buarque for the film “Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos”, based on the book by Jorge Amado.There are three versions of this song: “O que será? (Abertura)“, performed by Simone; “O que será? (À flor da terra)“, sung by Chico Buarque; and the mesmerizing “O que será? (À flor da pele)“, in which Buarque is accompanied by the incomparable Milton Nascimento. The song has a deeply passionate tone, although there are many interpretations of its lyrics.
57) Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento – “Caxangá” (1977)
Elis Regina is certainly one of the most talented singers to emerge from Brazil, often deemed the greatest Brazilian singer of all times. With her explosive personality and her sublime voice, she gained the respect not only of the Brazilian people, but also of the nation’s leading songwriters, who would line up to have one of their songs recorded by her. Elis’ death at the age of 36 shocked the whole country; nevertheless, she remains as popular after death as she was in life.
This beautiful song is interpreted together with Milton Nascimento, and belongs to her album Elis.
58) Maria Bethânia and Gal Costa – “Sonho Meu” (1978)
Maria Bethânia is one of Brazil’s biggest voices, with a long and successful career: she is among the 10 best-selling music artists in Brazil, having sold more than 26 million records. Talent seems to run in her family’s veins: Bethânia is the sister of the singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso and of writer-songwriter Mabel Velloso, as well as being aunt of the singers Belô Velloso and Jota Velloso.
From her album Alibi comes Sonho meu (“My dream”), where her unique voice blends with another, incredible one: Gal Costa’s.
59) Caetano Veloso – “Sampa” (1978)
It is curious that in a city with great musical representatives like Os Mutantes and Demônios da Garoa, no one could decipher São Paulo better than the baiano Caetano Veloso. “Sampa” (short for São Paulo) is Caetano’s tribute to the city of São Paulo, known for its characteristic drizzle and the large number of migrants, especially from the Northeast region of the country (pejoratively called “baianos”).
Pollution, the reception to migrants, the multiple cultures and the dreams of their inhabitants are pictured in the elegant lyrics, so intense to make the song an all-time classic and transform the intersection of Ipiranga and São João Avenues in one of the most famous spots of the city. In the song, from the album Muito (1978), Caetano is accompanied by the group Outra Banda da Terra.
60) João Bosco – “O Bêbado e a Equilibrista” (1979)
A civil engineer-turned-singer/songwriter, João Bosco would become one of Brazil’s most formidable songwriters, with songs recorded by the country’s greatest artists. During his early career, he supplied Elis Regina with some of her best material; since Elis’ death he started to perform his own songs, becoming an emblematic figure in Brazil’s musical scene.
This is his most personal protest song (English “The Drunkard and the Tightrope Walker”), which was selected as the theme song of Amnesty International. I love this version, sung by Bosco himself, although “O Bêbado” was made famous mostly by Elis Regina. Written during the last years of a military dictatorship, it is a deeply metaphoric, poetic song, not easy to understand on a first read. The drunk represents the artists, poets and musicians who dared to raise their voices against the dictatorship, the Equilibrist is the hope for democracy, which at every “event” that disturbed the military (marches, etc), saw its existence threatened.
61) Gilberto Gil – “Toda Menina Baiana” (1979)
Already a star from the 60’s, Gilberto Gil is known not only for his innovative musical style, but also for political and environmental activism.
62) Beth Carvalho – “Coisinha do Pai” (1979)
Beth Carvalho’s name is synonymous with samba, particularly the Mangueira Scola do Samba. Singer, guitarist, cavaquinist and composer, she began recording in the mid ‘60s; her interpretation of “Andança” earned her the third place at the III Festival Internacional da Canção and became a classic of MPB, re-recorded by many great singers like Maria Bethânia, Elis Regina, and Nana Caymmi.
Her 1979 album No Pagode is considered a masterpiece, and featured this song, her biggest hit of all time. In the late ‘90s, the song was even sent to outer space in the space probe Pathfinder!
- The 1980s
- The 1990s
- The 2000s – 2010s