The Boy from Ipanema: Caetano Veloso

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Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso was actually born in the small Bahian town of Santo Amaro da Purificaçao. His mother died there a few years back at the age of 105. Hopefully Caetano and his kid sister Maria Bethânia will inherit her genes for longevity.

I reviewed his autobiography Verdade Tropical (Tropical Truth) for the LA Times Book Review when the English version came out in 2002 (click here to read). I found it both fascinating and pretentious. Pretentious in his dissertation on modernist manifestos on art and film. Fascinating for his recollections on taunting the dictatorship and the generals, also his time in prison. To note, he wrote his famous song “Terra” (“Earth”) from a dark prison cell after seeing photos of earth from the Apollo astronauts on the moon. Also fascinating was his tales of exile in London and his taking in all the psychedelic late 60s vibes and Carnaby Street parade there.

I never was a fan of Tropicalia so much because I prefer other styles of Brazilian music: forró, bossa nova, afrobrazilian, mostly music from the Northeast. I do love Veloso’s first album with Gal Costa, Domingowith beautiful string arrangements by Dori Caymmi. They actually misspelled his last name with two L’s on the cover: Velloso. I like his 1988 album Caetano as well. His album in Spanish, Fina Estampa, was licensed to Mercury Latin but didn’t get much attention. But his switch to the Nonesuch label helped make him much more popular in Europe and America.


Caetano Veloso has his Hollywood Bowl debut on Sunday, September 21st. I will be there to introduce him and his opening acts, Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory and Devendra Banhart. Click here for more details. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

Here is a clip of Caetano performing one of my favorite songs, “Manhata” from his Grammy-award winning album Livro.