Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Girl from Ipanema

by Leighton Gage

You've probably heard the music.
But did you know that there really was a girl from Ipanema?
Her name was Hêlo Pinto and, in 1962, she was a statuesque brunette living on Montenegro Street in the fashionable Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro. 

There was, and still is, a drinking establishment on a corner of that same street, situated about halfway between her home and the beach.

Back then, it was called the Bar Veloso.

Tom Jobim was one of the regulars. He was a musician, fond of whiskey. 

Vinicius de Morães. another regular, was a diplomat, playwright and poet - even fonder of whiskey. (He once called the stuff "man's best friend - a dog in a bottle".) 

Tom and Vinicius used to hole up in the Veloso to drink the afternoons away. Hêlo, the heartthrob of the neighborhood, often passed-by on her way down to the ocean. The composer and the poet, struck by her beauty, wrote a song about her, A Garota de Ipanema. It became an instant hit, first in Brazil and then around the world.
Vinicius, at the time, was already famous. He'd written the play that gave rise to the film Black Orpheus (Oscar Winner; Best Foreign Film of 1959).
He died in 1980 at the age of 66. The street where the Bar Veloso stood has been renamed in his honor.

Tom went on to compose many jazz standards recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

He died in 1994 at the age of 67.

Rio's International Airport is named after him.

Hêlo, at 61, now Hêlo Pinheiro, is very much alive.

She's dyed her hair blonde and has a lovely daughter.

And the Bar Veloso is now named after the song that made it famous. It's now called A Garota de Ipanema.  If you click on the image to enlarge it, you'll be able to see the name above the blue roof.

On the walls you'll find a number of Vinicius's poems. Here's how I translated two lines from one of them:

"...the love I had was not immortal
But it was infinite - while it lasted."

Finally, here's the recording that made A Garota da Ipanema famous in the United States back in 1964.
Stan Getz plays and his (then) wife, Astrud Gilberto, sings.
For some mysterious reason I was unable to embed it, so you'll have to click on the link to take you there:


Earl Staggs said...

Fascinating story. I loved the song then and still do.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I remember the song. It brings back memories of my youth. Thanks for telling the story behind it.

Jaden Terrell said...

When I was a little girl, my aunt used to play this song for me on the piano. It was one of my favorites. Nice to finally know the story.

Bill Kirton said...

Just echoing the comments already made - great song, good to hear the story behind it, golden memories.