The Life of Ary Barroso–Famous Brazilian Songwriter–How it Mirrors Modern Brazil

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Ary Barroso isn’t a household name here or even now in contemporary Brazil, but he wrote the most famous song, “Aquarela do Brasil” (Brazilian Watercolor), whose fame was only surpassed by Jobim’s “Girl from Ipanema” which came twenty years later with the Bossa Nova wave of the early 1960s.  Barroso’s song was featured in the great Disney cartoon of the same name, featuring Donald Duck and José Carioca, Donald’s Rio de Janeiro counterpart.  Barroso also wrote “Na Baixo do Sapateiro” (In the Shoemaker’s Hollow), an early hit for Carmen Miranda, recorded before she went north to Hollywood to star in Busby Berkeley musicals, become the “Girl in the Tutti Frutti Hat”,  and also the highest paid woman in the world in 1945.  Both Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox wanted Brazil and the U.S. to get closer, and they did it with film.  The U.S. used Recife during WWII as an airbase to ferry soldiers across the Atlantic (closer to Dakar, Senegal and hence to North Africa where we and the British fought Rommel).  We also built generators for the Brazilians.  See the timeline for more on this.

I can’t help but put that famous Carmen Miranda “Tutti Frutti” hat clip in here.  It’s from Busby Berkeley’s The Gangs All Here (1943).  If you’ve never seen it, you must.  It’s phenomenal.

Barroso’s life mirrors Brazil’s rise to power, its role in World War I and II.  He died on February 9th, 1964, during Brazil’s Carnaval celebration, and, on the darker side, the same year the generals started the dictatorship that was to last twenty years until the 1985 elections, when democratic elections were finally held.

Link to the fascinating timeline:

(make sure you click on bottons on the top of this link:  also I must credit the work of Daniella Thompson, who put this wonderful timeline together).

…..a link to the Donald Duck Disney Cartoon Aquarela do Brazil, which made the song famous all over the world:  a delightful must see where Donald learns the samba!

Here’s a great version of “Na Baixa do Sapateiro” by Brazilian guitarist Marco Perreira and Italian pianist Stefano Bollini: