jakub | June 6, 2023

‘The Girl from Ipanema’ singer Astrud Gilberto dies, aged 83

Brazilian bossa nova singer Astrud Gilberto – famed for her version of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ – has died aged 83.

The singer-songwriter was one of Brazil’s biggest stars of the ‘60s and ‘70s, recognised as one of the leading artists who helped popularise the bossa nova genre and known for working with the likes of Quincy Jones, George Michael and more.

News of her death was broken by her granddaughter, Sofia, who announced the update with a post on Instagram. “I’m here to bring you the sad news that my grandmother became a star today, and is next to my grandfather João Gilberto,” she wrote (as translated from Portuguese).

“She was a pioneer and the best. At the age of 22, she gave voice to the English version of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ and gained international fame.”

New York-based guitarist and collaborator Paul Ricci also confirmed the news on Facebook. “I just got word from her son Marcelo that we have lost Astrud Gilberto,” he said in the update. “He asked for this to be posted.”

“She was an important part of ALL that is Brazilian music in the world and she changed many lives with her energy. RIP from ‘the chief’, as she called me.”

Jazz singer Astrud Gilberto poses for a portrait at Birdland on the day they recorded the Stan Getz live album, 1964
Jazz singer Astrud Gilberto poses for a portrait at Birdland on the day they recorded the Stan Getz live album, 1964. CREDIT: PoPsie Randolph/Getty Images

Born in Bahia as Astrud Evangelina Weinert, the singer moved to Rio de Janeiro at an early age and discovered a group of friends she would describe as her “musical clan” as a teenager. This included guitarist João Gilberto and singer Nara Leao, who would later be regarded as pioneers of bossa nova.

Astrud and João married within months of meeting, and it was upon accompanying her husband to a New York recording studio in 1963 that she began her career as a professional musician.

It was while here that a band came to record the English lyrics for ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, and Astrud volunteered to contribute the vocals. She was only paid the standard $120 session fee for her performance and her name was not credited on the track — which went on to be a global hit and won a Grammy award for record of the year.

While the track proceeded to be covered by Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, Nat King Cole and more, the song also acted as a catalyst for her solo career, which saw her collaborate with the likes of jazz guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim, jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and legendary producer Quincy Jones.

Later in her career, she also teamed up with former Wham! frontman George Michael for a duet of ‘Desafinado’ — a track first made popular by Stan Getz and João Gilberto in 1962. The collaboration arrived on the charity album ‘Red Hot + Rio’, which was released in 1996.

Her final album, ‘Jungle’, arrived in 2002 after she took an extensive hiatus from public performances and live shows. The final years of her life, however, saw her dedicate much of her time to campaigning against animal cruelty.

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