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Legendary Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, 'The Girl from Ipanema' dies at 83

“The Girl From Ipanema,” became a global sensation that has been played in films, shows and even became memorialized as iconic elevator music throughout the world

Astrud Gilberto “The Girl From Ipanema,” record album
Astrud Gilberto “The Girl From Ipanema,” record album | Shutterstock

June 7, 2023 9:15am

Updated: June 7, 2023 9:23am

Astrud Gilberto, the iconic Brazilian singer-songwriter who brought bossa nova to global audiences with the 1964 hit “The Girl From Ipanema,” died Tuesday at her home in Philadelphia at the age of 83. 

Her passing was confirmed by a family friend, Musician Paul Ricci, and the singer’s young granddaughter Sofia Gilberto  shared the sad news on her Instagram account. 

“I come to share the sad news that my grandmother became a star today and is next to my grandfather João Gilberto," Gilberto wrote. “Astrud was truly the girl who brought Ipanema’s bossa nova to the world. She was the pioneer and the best.”

Brazilian American musician Bebel Gilberto, whose father, João Gilberto, was once married to Astrud, also paid their respects online, Tuesday. 

"Rest in peace my eternal Muse. You may sing with birds and angels, beautiful Astrud," she said on social media.

“The Girl From Ipanema,” became a global sensation that has been played in films, shows and even became memorialized as iconic elevator music throughout the world.

It was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, and started out as a hit in South America although it did not take long to go viral after it was released with Portuguese and English vocals.

In a 2002 interview she gave her friends for her personal website, Astrud Gilberto said her husband surprised her with the idea at a recording studio.

“I begged him to tell me what it was, but he adamantly refused, and would just say: ‘Wait and see ...’ Later on, while rehearsing with Stan, as they were in the midst of going over the song ‘The Girl from Ipanema,’ João casually asked me to join in, and sing a chorus in English, after he had just sung the first chorus in Portuguese. So, I did just that,” she said.

Born in Salvador, Bahia and raised in Rio de Janeiro, the now famous song propelled Gilberto to superstar status in 1964 after she was brought on board by her husband at the time, singer-songwriter-guitarist João Gilberto and saxophonist Stan Getz.

The trio sold more than 2 million copies, and “The Girl From Ipanema,” was also released as a single with Astrud Gilberto as the only vocalist, ranked just behind the Beatles iconic song, “Yesterday” as the most covered, modern song.

It was also awarded the 1965 for record of the year while Gilberto was nominated for best new artist and best vocal performance.

In fact, many assumed Gilberto was indeed “The Girl From Ipanema” since she had an exotic, beautiful Latina look when in fact the writer, de Moraes wrote the tune about a Brazilian teenager named Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto.

For several years, Gilberto toured with Getz and others, releasing eight successful record albums. After decades of performing and recording, she retired by 2002 and instead became an animal rights activist.

Sadly, Gilberto said she did not receive royalties from the famous song and expressed hurt feelings that her former musical collaborators, Getz and Taylor often minimized her as “just a housewife.”

She was indeed married twice and had two sons, Gregory Lasorsa and João Marcelo Gilberto and, both of whom worked alongside her.

While she said she sometimes felt dismissed by her own countrymen in Brazil, she remained a popular sensation throughout the world, still being asked to perform live years after the song was released.

In 2008, she received a Latin Grammy for lifetime achievement after follow-up performances with trumpeter Chet Baker on “Fly Me to the Moon” or crooning with George Michael on the bossa nova standard “Desafinado.”

Despite some in the media saying she had a tendency to be “recluse,” Gilberto denied the label.

“I have been labeled by an occasional frustrated journalist as ‘a recluse.’ The dictionary clearly defines recluse as ‘a person who withdraws from the world to live in seclusion and often in solitude.’ Why should anybody assume that just because an artist chooses not to give interviews, he/she is a recluse?” she said in 2002.

“I firmly believe that any artist who becomes famous through their work — be it music, motion pictures or any other — does not have any moral obligation to satisfy the curiosity of journalists, fans or any members of the public about their private lives, or anything else that does not have any direct reflection on their work. My work, whether perceived as good, bad, or indifferent, speaks for itself.”

Gilberto was born March 29, 1940 as Astrud Evangelina Weinert to a Brazilian mother and a German father, in Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia, but she was raised in Rio de Janeiro.  

She was able to quickly sing “The Girl From Ipanema” in different languages because her father was a language professor, making it easier for her to become fluent in several languages at a young age.

In 1987, pop-jazz artist Basia paid tribute to Gilberto by writing a song titled with her name, “Astrud” which was released on her debut album “Time and Tide.”

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.