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Thirty Years After Vinicius de Moraes

By Maíra Amorim, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – July 9th marked the thirty year anniversary of the death of Vinicius de Moraes, Brazilian poet, musician, singer, ambassador and Carioca who died at the age of 67. Moraes left behind a legacy of music and poetry that is being celebrated all month.

Vinicius de Moraes in 1970, photo courtesy of of Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

An iconic figure of Rio during the 1950s and 60s, he is best known as author of “Garota de Ipanema” (Girl from Ipanema), the famous song he composed in 1962 with his musical partner and friend, Tom Jobim.

Moraes’ life was portrayed in the 2005 documentary “Vinicius” by Miguel Faria Jr, with exclusive footage of parties he threw and interviews with many of his friends. He was a person who loved life, music, women and Rio.

Moraes was a true Carioca. Born in Gávea in 1913, he was raised in Botafogo and studied at Santo Inácio High School, one of the most traditional in Rio. Over the years, the poet witnessed the development and transformation of the city. He graduated with a degree in Portuguese and went on to acquire a law degree, despite his lack of interest in the subject.

In 1933, his first book, “O Caminho Para A Distância” (The Path to Distance), was published and it became clear that writing was his passion. In 1938, he was awarded a scholarship to study at Oxford (UK), where he later married his first wife, Beatriz Azevedo de Mello. He returned to Brazil at the commencement of the Second World War in 1939, where, in São Paulo, he began working as a journalist and film critic.

Moraes’ diplomatic career began in 1943. He was assigned his first post, Los Angeles, in 1946. In 1950, Moraes returned to Brazil and in 1951 was married for the second time to Lila Maria Esquerdo e Bôscoli. He continued working as a journalist, film critic and poet until he was sent to Paris in 1953, the same year in which he composed his first samba, “Quando tu Passas por Mim” (When you pass by me).

After several posts in Rio, Montevideo and Paris, Moraes was dismissed from the foreign service in 1969, as the military dictatorship, which investigated the private lives of consuls and ministers, disapproved of his bohemian lifestyle.

The bar Garota de Ipanema, where Moraes composed his most famous song of the same name, photo by Phillie Casablanca.

Moraes was married several times, and his long list of wives included Maria Lúcia Proença (1958), Nelita Abreu Rocha (1963), Cristina Gurjão (1969), Gesse Gessy (1970), Marta Rodrihues Santamaria (1976), Gilda de Queirós Mattoso (1978) and Regina Pederneiras, with whom he was married at the same time as Beatriz de Mello. His passion for women was clear in his poems, lyrics and songs.

Arguably Moraes’ most famous composition, “Garota de Ipanema” was inspired by Helô Pinheiro, a young woman who would often pass by a bar where the two men frequented. Formerly named Veloso, the bar is now called “Garota de Ipanema” and is located on the corner of Prudente de Moraes with Vinicius de Moraes in Ipanema. The bar has become a popular stop for tourists.

While its fame is unquestionable, Moraes’ legacy goes far beyond “Garota de Ipanema”. He published more than thirty books, wrote five plays and lived his life to the fullest. He was an intellectual who flirted with Rio’s high society and loved to compose samba.

The injustice of Moraes’ expulsion from his diplomatic career was corrected in February of this year, when the Brazilian congress approved his promotion to first class Minister. “He was an ambassador of Brazilian Culture,” said his daughter, Suzana de Moraes. And this he remains, thirty years after his death.

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