Baden Powell de Aquino was born in Varre-e-Sai in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His father, a scouting enthusiast, named him after Lord Robert Baden-Powell. When he was three, his family relocated to a suburb in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The new surroundings proved profoundly influential. His house was a stop for popular musicians during his formative years. He soon started guitar lessons with Jayme Florence (Meira), a famous choro guitarist, in the 1940s. He proved a young virtuoso, having won many talent competitions before he was a teenager. At age fifteen, he was already playing professionally, accompanying singers and bands in various styles. As a youngster, he was fascinated by swing and jazz, but his main influences were firmly rooted in the Brazilian guitar canon.
He first achieved notoriety in 1959 by convincing singer/composer Billy Blanco to put lyrics to one of his compositions. The result was Samba Triste, which has been covered by many artists, including Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd on their seminal LP Jazz Samba.
In 1962, he met the poet/diplomat Vincius de Moraes and began a collaboration that yielded some true classics of 1960s Brazilian music. Although bossa nova was the prevailing sound of the times, Baden and Vinicius wanted to transcend the then-fashionable sound by blending Afro-Brazilian sacred and secular music with Rio-style samba. The most enduring result are their Afro-Sambas, released on LP in 1966. During the 1960s, Baden studied advanced harmony with Moacir Santos, released recordings on the Brazilian labels Elenco and Forma, as well as in the French label Barclay and the German label MPS/Saba. His 1966 Tristeza on Guitar is considered by many to be a high point in his career. In addition, he was the house guitarist for Elenco, and Elis Regina's TV show O Fino da Bossa.