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Luiz Nassif

Bossa nova had a restricted Olympus, followed be a reasonable quantity of semi-gods. And this Olympus was constituted by lyricists Vinícius de Moraes and Ronaldo Bôscoli, by João Gilberto, the interpreter who defines the rhythm and by three fundamental composers: Tom Jobim, Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal.

If one takes the golden period, from the mid fifties until the end of the sixties, even if there had been no Tom Jobim, there would have been Carlos Lyra. In bossa nova, the production of both are equal in refinement, harmonic quality, the influence they exercised on international prominence mutual. And mutual in the fact that, together with Baden Powell, they constituted Vinícius’ Holy Trinity, the composers to whom the maestro dedicated his most brilliant lyrics.

After the movement ended, Jobim continued on his path of greatest melodist of the century. And Lyra directed himself toward all the cultural movements of the period, to Tablado, the Popular Center for Culture, the National Student Union, the Arena Theatre, with a passage in award winning children’s plays.

Lyra was Born in 1936 in Rio de Janeiro, son of a Navy officer who died when Lyra was 13. He received a guitar from his mother during the time he was kept at home due to a broken leg. He learned with the methods of Paraguaçu and of Patrício Teixeira, simple as they could be. Later, he refined his technique somewhat with Garoto, of whom he was a student a short time before his death.

Thus, like all the great names of bossa nova, he is the direct descendent of the samba-canção, on a first level, and of the choro in a second. In one of my columns, I spoke of the importance and the refinement of the samba-canção pre-bossa-nova, mistakenly stereotyped as cliché. Lyra considers bossa nova a continuation of the samba-canção, with a difference: Joao Gilberto’s beat.

Lyra’s first song, composed at age 18, was already a classic samba-canção, “Quando Chegares” (“when you arrive / you may come in without knocking / turn on the victrola low / wait for night to fall”)..

Soon afterwards, Geraldo Vandré sang Lyra’s song “Menina” (“what will your father say / girl, I’m no good for you / I’m bad / can it be you want / them to talk about you also / the way they talk about me”), with which he won the First International Song Festival of TV Rio. In 1955, the song was recorded by Sylvia Telles in a 78 which had on the flip side “Foi a Noite”, another classic samba-canção by Tom Jobim and Newton Mendonça.

The following year, Lyra composed one of his greatist classics “Maria Ninguém” (“Maria Ninguém / is Maria and is Maria my dear”), an authentic samba-choro, composed before the official launching of bossa nova. Years later it was played at the White House (in Washington, D.C.) by Paul Winter, and Jackie Kennedy declared it to be her favorite bossa nova.

He had innumerous partners composing classics of Brazilian Popular Music. With Vandré, he composed “Quem quiser encontrar o amor” and “Aruanda”. With Chico de Assis, “Subdesenvolvido”. With Ronaldo Bôscoli, he composed a string of songs, including “Lobo Bobo”, “Canção que morre no ar”, “Se é tarde me perdoa”, that warmed so many serenades at São João da Boa Vista. But it was with Vinícius that he composed the most brilliant part of his work and one of the most expressive works of Brazilian popular music of all times. “Primavera”, “Marcha da Quarta Feira de Cinzas”, “Coisa Mais Linda”, “Você e Eu”, “Samba do Carioca”, “Maria Moita”, “Minha Namorada”, “Pau-de-Arara”. One of his main compositions, “Primavera” (“my love alone / is like a garden without flower”), with Vinícius, was originally a choro.

At the Popular Center for Culture of Rio, created in 1961 by Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, beside Ferreira Gullar, Leon Hirschman, Lyra took part in one of the richest movements of Brazilian popular culture. The CPC helped rediscover Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho, Zé Ketty, and to launch Quarteto em Cy and the Tamba Trio.

In 1965, he went to the United States, playing with Stan Getz and Paul Winter. With Jobim and Gilberto, he helped define a new face for Brazil, good-looking, modern musical young men, showing the world an image of a country, which was becoming modern.

In 1975, he turned to astrology. Recently, he appeared in a few shows, released a few records, continues to tour the world showing the music that all want to hear.

On my part, there is never an evening or a gathering at home that doesn’t include “Marcha da Quarta Feira de Cinzas”, “Maria Ninguém”, “Primavera”, treated fondly, like eternally modern daughters of MPB.

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