Born: October 19, 1913 | Died: July 9, 1980 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Vinicius de Moraes, nicknamed O Poetinha (the little poet), born Marcus Vinicius da Cruz de Mello Moraes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, of his parents, Lydia Cruz de Moraes and Clodoaldo Pereira da Silva Moraes, Vinicius was a seminal figure in contemporary Brazilian music. As a poet, he wrote lyrics for a great number of songs that became all-time classics. He was also a composer of Bossa nova, a playwright, a diplomat and, as an interpreter of his own songs, he left several important albums.
From a musical family, Vinicius began writing poetry early in life. At the age of 14, he became friends with the brothers Paulo and Haroldo Tapajós, and with the latter composed Loura ou Morena, his first song. In 1929, Vinicius enrolled in law school in Rio de Janeiro. Starting in 1932, he wrote lyrics for ten songs that were recorded by the Tapajós brothers. Upon completing his studies, he published his first two collections of poetry: Caminho Para a Distância (1933) and Forma e Exegese. Later, he became a cinema censor for the health and education cabinet (1935) and wrote his third book Ariana, a Mulher (1936).
Heading to England (1938) with a British government scholarship to study literature at Oxford University, he wrote Novos Poemas. At that time he was married by proxy. In 1941, amidst the winds of World War II, Vinicius returned to Rio and began to write film reviews and other pieces for newspapers and magazines. Two years later, he joined Brazil's diplomatic service and released his book Cinco Elegias. In 1946, he was sent to Los Angeles as vice-consul on his first diplomatic assignment, and released Poemas, Sonetos e Baladas.
In 1950, Vinicius returned to Brazil upon his father's death. His first samba (composed along with musician Ant'nio Maria), was Quando Tu Passas por Mim, released in 1953, a year in which he moved to France as second secretary to Brazil's embassy.
The next year he wrote lyrics for some of Cláudio Santoro's chamber music pieces, and also staged his play Orfeu da Conceição, (later adapted to cinema as Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro, by Marcel Camus, director/writer, France, 1959)). With only a draft version, in 1954, Vinicius' original play won the contest commemorating the Fourth Centennial Celebration of the founding of the City of São Paulo. Later in 1956, during the production of his play, he was introduced to a relatively unknown pianist, Antonio Carlos Jobim, who was commissioned with writing the music for the play. Jobim composed the music for Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você, Um Nome de Mulher, and several other songs included in the production.
Following a return to his diplomatic duties in France and Uruguay, Vinicius released his books: Livro de Sonetos and Novos Poemas II.
n 1958, the singer Elizete Cardoso released her album Canção do Amor Demais, marking the beginning of Bossa Nova. This record consists wholly of compositions by the Jobim-Vinicius partnership, or by either of the two (Canção do Amor Demais, Luciana, Estrada Branca, Chega de Saudade, Outra Vez...). The recording also featured a relatively unknown João Gilberto on two tracks. With the release of this record, Vinicius' career in music (as well as that of many involved with him) may be said to have truly begun.
The songs of Jobim and Vinicius were recorded by numerous Brazilian singers and performers of that time. Renditions of many Jobim-Vinicius' numbers on João Gilberto's first, second and third albums would firmly establish the sound and the core repertory of the Bossa Nova and would influence a new generation of singers and songwriters especially in Rio de Janeiro. Among these songs are all time hits such as Garota de Ipanema, Insensatez and Chega de Saudade.
Black Orpheus won an Academy Award for the best Foreign Language Film of 1959 (France; director, Marcel Camus); and it was also awarded with the Palme d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival; as well as it was awarded the 1960 British Academy Award---The film, a co-production between France-Italy and Brazi, included several songs by Jobim and Moraes.
His songs Para uma Menina com uma Flor and Samba da Bênção (music by Baden Powell) were included on the soundtrack of A Man and a Woman (Un Homme et une Femme, Claude Lelouch, 1966), another Cannes film festival winner.
In the 60's and 70's, Vinicius continued collaborating with many renowned Brazilian singers and musicians, particularly Baden Powell, with whom he penned a series of songs with a heavy Afro-Brazilian influence and which came to be known collectively as the Afro-Sambas. He also toured through Europe with Chico Buarque and Nara Leão and Argentina with Dorival Caymmi and Oscar Castro-Neves. His last steady music partner was Antonio Pecci Filho, better known as Toquinho. Along with Toquinho, Vinicius released a series of very popular and influential albums.
Hundreds of international performers have recorded more than 400 of Vinicius' songs.
Vinicius de Moraes died at his home, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 9, 1980 at the age of 66, while in the company of his wife, Gilda de Queirós Mattoso and his partner musician, Toquinho. He is buried in Rio de Janeiro's Cemitério São João Batista.