The death of Astrud Gilberto, unforgettable “Girl from Ipanema”

Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto on stage at the Jazz Festival in The Hague in 1982.

In the right place at the right time and with grace: daughter of the good Brazilian society, Astrud Gilberto had a fluid destiny. Childhood friend of Nara Leao, muse of bossa-nova, married to the pope of bossa-nova, Joao Gilberto, she will sculpt by chance the worldwide success of an American jazz saxophonist, Stan Getz.

On Getz/Gilbertoone of the best-selling albums in the world, a miracle occurs: his clear, direct, carefree voice mysteriously eclipsed his two masters and their assistants, Tom Jobim on the piano, Phil Spector on the sound… And again, the name Gilberto becomes synonymous with Astrud, while she only performs two titles there, Corcovado And The Girl from IpanemTo. Astrud Gilberto, born Astrud Evangelina Weinert on March 29, 1940 in Salvador de Bahia, died on June 5, 2023 in Philadelphia. She was 83 years old.

A shy young girl, Astrud Gilberto was not destined to become a singer. Daughter of a German literature teacher and a Brazilian music lover, a redundancy, she had rather to live the life of a girl from Ipanema, as celebrated in the song invented in 1962 by two dandies from the area south of Rio de Janeiro, Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Daughter of Ipanema, relative rebel, well educated, with a tanned, neat, fine body, from which emanated a controlled sensuality, liberated women strolling around in their two-piece bathing suits.

Among them were the original model, Heloisa, a military daughter; and then replicas, broke hippies, well-married wives, and artists. Among the latter, Nara Leao, great voice of bossa-nova, a woman of character, of whom Astrud Gilberto is a childhood friend. Their parents live on the sumptuous Atlantica Avenue which borders the ocean in Copacabana. Nara Leao soon transforms the family apartment into the vibrant epicenter of the “new drive”, the “bossa-nova” that Joao Gilberto, a charming Bahian, has just invented.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Brazilian singer Joao Gilberto, inventor of bossa nova, dies at 88

Brazilians ride in New York

Nara would like Astrud to marry the genius, it is done in 1959 – their son Joao Marcelo is born the following year. On November 21, 1962, Carnegie Hall in New York presents Bossa Night. Close ties have been forged between supporters of Brazilian musical modernity and American jazzmen. The former celebrate Frank Sinatra, who will make them feel good, the latter get carried away for the sensual suppleness of bossa. From Sarah Vaughan to Paul Desmond, from Quincy Jones to Ella Fitzgerald, everyone makes the detour to Rio. The Brazilians go up to New York, soon Astrud Gilberto will make the bridge.

In the right place, at the right time, Astrud now Gilberto, attended in 1963, in the New York A & R studios, the recording of the disc Getz/Gilberto (so titled for Joao, her husband), under the direction of producer Creed Taylor, who then thought that one or two titles sung in English would have the best commercial effect. We therefore translate Corcovado And In Garota de Ipanema. But who to interpret them? Astrud raises her hand, she has this chance to speak perfect English. Getz/Gilbert will be a triumph.

Stan Getz greedily grabs the royalties in the process, and steals Astrud from Joao. Little resentful, the singer will record again in 1976 with the saxophonist, the album The Best of Two Worlds, sung by Miucha, his new wife, from whom was born another Gilberto, Bebel, also a singer. But when she left Joao for Stan (briefly) and Rio for Philadelphia (forever) in 1965, hadn’t Astrud made the fatal mistake that deprived her of the juice of her origins?

inveterate american

The daughter of Copa (cabana) therefore specialized in the interpretation in English (but also in Italian and other languages) of the founding titles of bossa-nova. In 1965, his first solo album, The Astrud Gilberto Album, served by Joao Gilberto and the Guildhall String Ensemble. After having succeeded in dragging a consenting Stan Getz down the slippery slopes of variety and misunderstood rock (sometimes unfortunate adaptations of Beatles or Bob Dylan songs), she released an excellent record with Gil Evans, Look to the Rainbow, at Verve, in 1966, a bible for lovers of ethereal pop.

In the 1970s, she disappeared, returning ten years later, an inveterate American, equipped with a new energy that took her around the world. Cured of a kind of impostor syndrome, now iconic, she sometimes collaborates with her peers – in 1996 with George Michael, or with Etienne Daho, who invites her on the title The banks of the Seine the same year. She had founded her own production company, Gregmar, before writing a plea for animals, Animals, they need our help! and record a final studio album, Jungle.


  • March 30, 1940 Born in Salvador de Bahia
  • 1964 Getz/Gilberto
  • 1965 Look To The Rainbow
  • 1987 Astrud Gilberto Compilation
  • 2002 Jungle
  • June 5, 2023 Death in Philadelphia

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