Keener Bosa Nova
In 1964, America’s musical tastes had not yet fully polarized. While the wave of British hits washed over us, there was still an eclecticism to the WKNR play list that made it possible for a jazz legend to link up with a Brazilian samba singer and have a hit record.
Such was the unique story of the Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto partnership. Getz came into the spotlight in the 1940s as the silky smooth tenor sax player in Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd big band. He was introducing bosa nova to American ears when he teamed up with Gilberto, who was a last minute choice to record the vocals for “The Girl From Ipanema”.
It was Astrud’s husband Joao who took the first crack at recording the lyrics in his native Portuguese. Legend has it that producer Creed Taylor smelled a smash hit and pressed for an English language version of the song. As Bill Janovitz notes in his AllMusic.com review of the record, “Astrud, who was just along for the visit to New York, was the only Brazilian who understood English enough to sing the adaptation by famed lyricist Norman Gimbel. With no musical background, she stepped to the microphone and sang the words Gimbel had adapted (they are not a literal translation) with an authentic sense of innocence and austerity..”
And the rest, as they say, is history. “The Girl From Ipanema” spent three weeks in the lower reaches of the WKNR Music Guide, topping out at Number 22 during the week of June 18 1964.