Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian singer who helped popularize bossa nova around the world with her recording of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, has died. The artist’s granddaughter, Sofia Gilberto, revealed the news on Instagram, writing, “I’m here to bring you the sad news that my grandmother became a star today, and is next to my grandfather João Gilberto. She was a pioneer and the best. At the age of 22, she gave voice to the English version of Girl from Ipanema and gained international fame.” No cause of death has been reported. Gilberto was 83.
Gilberto was born Astrud Evangelina Weinert in the state of Bahia, the daughter of a German father and a Brazilian mother. She moved to Rio de Janeiro at an early age, and she married Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto in 1959, when she was 19. Although she grew up immersed in music, she had no professional musical experience until 1963, when she visited New York with her husband to record the album Getz/Gilbert with the American jazz saxophone player Stan Getz. Producer Creed Taylor wanted to record a few English vocals to maximize crossover potential, and Gilberto, whose father was a language professor, was fluent in several languages, including English. She delivered a hesitant, ethereal second verse in English, and when the song was re-edited without João’s Portuguese vocals in 1964, the single became an international hit, reaching the US Top 5 and winning the Grammy for Song of the Year.
In 1965, Gilberto released her debut record, The Astrud Gilberto Album, a collection of Brazillian standards recorded with jazz guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim. Astrud and João divorced in the mid-1960s, and Gilberto moved to the United States. She went on to tour with Stan Getz and started to record her own compositions in the ’70s, laying down tracks in Portuguese, English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Japanese. Gilberto recorded 16 studio albums and two live LPs over the course of her career before retiring in 2002. She spent most of her later years advocating for animal rights.
“The song, a bossa nova anthem, became the second most played in the world mainly because of her,” Sofia Gilberto continued. “I love and will love Astrud forever and she was the face and voice of bossa nova in most parts of the planet. Astrud will forever be in our hearts, and right now we have to celebrate Astrud.”
Paul Ricci, a New York-based guitarist who collaborated with Gilberto, also paid tribute on social media. “I just got word from [Gilberto’s] son Marcelo that we have lost Astrud Gilberto,” he wrote. “He asked for this to be posted. She was an important part of ALL that is Brazilian music in the world and she changed many lives with her energy. RIP from ‘the chief’, as she called me. Thanks AG.”