“She was an important part of ALL that is Brazilian music in the world and she changed many lives with her energy,” said Gilberto collaborator Paul Ricci on social media, confirming the news.
Born Astrud Weinert in Bahia, Brazil in 1940, she married bossa nova musician João Gilberto and accompanied him on a trip to New York in 1963 for a collaborative recording project he had planned with Antonio Carlos Jobim and jazz saxophonist Stan Getz. Though Astrud had no previous singing experience, producer Creed Taylor wanted an English speaker to sing “The Girl from Ipanema” to help boost its commercial appeal, and thus she was given her first singing gig.
Astrud Gilberto was only given a small fee for her performance and originally wasn’t credited on the recording, but when the song was re-released as a single in 1964, without her husband’s vocals, it reached the top 5 in the U.S. and was nominated for the Song of the Year Grammy.
After touring with Getz in the states behind the success of “The Girl From Ipanema,” Gilberto would continue recording for Verve Records, issuing her debut The Astrud Gilberto Album in 1965, as well as 14 more albums thereafter, including her 1966 collaboration with organist Walter Wanderley, A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness. Her last album was 2002’s Jungle.
Gilberto received the Latin Jazz USA Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1992. She never officially retired, but announced in 2002 that she was taking “indefinite time off” from performances, and mostly remained out of the public eye since then. Yet her influence remained a presence in popular music, sampled by artists such as the Black Eyed Peas and Cut Chemist, and with one of her songs being featured in the 2007 movie Juno.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.