I was born Carlos Eduardo Lyra Barbosa, in Botafogo, City of Rio de Janeiro, son of Helena Lyra Barbosa and José Domingos Barbosa, a Brazilian Navy Officer.
I have two brothers, Sérgio Henrique Lyra Barbosa, now a retired Navy officer, and Maria Helena Lyra Barbosa, a schoolteacher and painter.
I inherited from my paternal grandfather, Domingos Barbosa, Poet Laureate of the Academy of Letters of the State of Maranhão, a taste for literature; from my maternal grandparents, a vocation for music. My father was very musical, played the flute and was a first-class partner on a dance floor. My mother played violin.
I fell in love with cinema during my childhood, developing a special fondness for musicals. My Aunt Carolina played Debussy on the piano every time her six-year-old nephew asked, and the requests were many. But it was my Uncle Edgar who imprinted me with the desire to play the guitar.
Although I played my toy piano and a small harmonica as a child, it was while serving in the army that I broke a leg (while simultaneously winning a long-distance jumping match) and, bedfast, was given a guitar by my mother. I made good use of classes with my neighbor, Garoto (Aníbal Augusto Sardinha).
I studied at São Bento, Santo Inácio, Colégio Militar, and finally at Mallet Soares, where my classmates included Roberto Menescal, Luis Carlos Vinhas and Carlos Eduardo Dollabela. My brother, at Mello e Souza, was a classmate of Nara Leão.
It was about this time that one of my first songs, “Menina”, came to the attention of Roberto Menescal, to whom I was teaching guitar. And during a French class, I composed “Maria Ninguém”. Soon after, Sylvia Telles recorded her first compact with my song, “Menina” on one side and “Foi a noite” by Tom Jobim on the other. João Gilberto would later introduce the “two sides of the record”, presenting me to Tom.
From 1956 on, the innumerous meetings and encounters at the Bar do Plaza, as well as in the homes of Bené Nunes and Nara Leão, brought together the then young talents of the time. The first duos of Bossa Nova appeared: Me with Ronaldo Bôscoli and Tom Jobim with Vinícius de Moraes, the later consecrated in João Gilberto’s – and Bossa Nova’s – first LP, Chega de Saudade, in 1959.
Many song-writing partners began to appear and my life was especially enriched through the friendship and the verses of Vinícius de Moraes. Records of these composers were released and Bossa Nova was exported in a Concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.
I was one of the founders of the Popular Center for Culture of the National Student Union (CPC da Une). I met Cartola, Zé Keti, Nelson Cavaquinho, Elton Medeiros and João do Vale and brought the music from the favela hillsides and the rural areas closer to the middle class, showing Nara the innumerous songs I had recorded on the diverse occasions these composers had met at my home and we had jammed together.
I saw the theatre of the CPC da UNE completely destroyed, burned, and with it many of my dreams. The theatre had been built with the money earned through the sale of the UNE record, The People Sing (O POVO CANTA). With the military coupe of ‘64, I went into self-exile. First in the United States, where I met up with Astrud Gilberto, Tony Bennet (with whom I recorded), João Donato, Stan Getz, Tom Jobim, Norman Gimbel and many others. I toured with Stan Getz throughout the world, but when I arrived in Mexico in ‘66, I didn’t want to leave ever again. How could I leave a country where women hired Mariachis to serenade their beloved at their very door?
So, seduced by its romanticism, I took up residence in Mexico City, met Gabriel Garcia Marques, José Ibañes, Octavio Paz, David Alfaro Siqueros, Juan Orozco, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes and Luiz Buñuel. I produced several shows, recorded two LPs and met Katherine Lee Caughey Riddell, whom I married in the City of Mexico in 1969.
I returned to Brazil in 1971. Later my daughter Kay was born. Under the military regime, I had many songs and, eventually, an entire album censured. Unable to cope with the pressure, I went on to Los Angeles in 1974, my second self-exile, now with my family. There, at the same time as John Lennon, I did Primal Therapy and took advantage of my spare time to study at the School of Sidereal Astrology, which would eventually prompt me to write two books on the subject.
I returned to Brazil in 1976, continued composing with new partners such as Paulo César Pinheiro, Heitor Valente, Daltony Nóbrega and Millôr Fernandes, among others. I established my residence in Ipanema, where Bossa Nova had originally flourished and from where I never intend to leave.