By Joey Sweeney
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 40 | Posted Jun. 5, 2002

Share this Story:

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes--ah
--"The Girl from Ipanema"

This is a story about genies getting let out of bottles, champagne corks popping by sheer cosmic force and the ephemeral nature of "it" girls down through time. It is a story of being a fan, and of being a meta-fan; of immersing yourself so far into the object of your obsession that when it comes to completion, you become the object, understanding its desires, wanting what it wants, and if you're lucky, being able to look back at the world with even just a modicum of the easy grace and charm your host cell has always portrayed.

It is a story of trying to talk with someone who hasn't talked with anyone in more than two decades. It is a story of what happens to you when it is revealed that you live but six blocks from greatness, from the source of one of the greatest musical moments of the 20th century, and after you've tried everything, all you can do is stare down the blocks in wonderment, and up at the dirty night sky, and know that that is enough. It will have to be.

Two or three moments of raw, uncomplicated happiness might be all you get in this world. I'm speaking about the stolen moments of sheer joy eked out when no one's looking--moments that have absolutely nothing to do with your family and friends, nothing to do with life's traditionally big events: weddings, births and so on. Moments when you are at one with the world, and completely removed from it, flying over the furniture, looking down at yourself and narrating to God and yourself, saying something to the effect of, Now there is a person, in all that they encompass, doing everything.

It's impossible to ascertain what provoked it, but one of my moments came on a Wednesday afternoon in November 1997. I was sitting on the couch, eating a ham sandwich and listening to Astrud Gilberto. It was an oddly warm day, and I got to come home for lunch that afternoon. The apartment I was living in at the time was only seven blocks or so from work.

And while memory won't permit the reasons for doing so, the other recollections make up for it: That day I came home at lunch, threw open the windows, let a weird, fake spring air blow in, put on Getz/Gilberto, side one, and sat on the couch, staring at the treetops, eating my brown-bag sucker lunch.

There was that first bit on track one, where Jo�o Gilberto sings his part, and then, about a minute in, her. That voice, that song, that tune. As soon as I heard it, something happened to me, something so plainly spiritual that it feels funny to say it. I transcended space and time and reality and my problems and cares, and got ejector-seat launched straight into a place no drug or God or pleasure of the flesh has ever delivered me. I was alive.

To this day, if I've ever cause to think about the happiest moments of my life, this aberrant Wednesday in November occupies a strange place in the catalog. There's my wedding, the day my sister was born, and then, the day I was sitting on the couch, eating a ham sandwich and listening to Astrud Gilberto.

Born to intellectual parents in Brazil in 1940, Astrud Gilberto was and is a chanteuse. In fact, it seems that dorks like me invented the word specifically for this woman who made her singing debut in 1963 with the international hit single "The Girl From Ipanema."

At the time she was the wife of Jo�o Gilberto and was called upon to sing during the recording session by default. She was the only Brazilian in evidence that day who could translate the lyrics.

Jo�o Gilberto himself was widely hailed as the architect of bossa nova music, the pop-jazz hybrid originated in Brazil in the late '50s amid a climate of social and political upheaval. She had also never sang publicly before.

After that recording won Record of the Year in 1964--and became a standard, the calling card by which bossa nova music became known around the world--she went on make a string of albums and singles for Verve Records, among other labels, all of which showcased her unaffected, almost siren-like simple singing.

Astrud Gilberto has been accused before of perhaps singing in a deliberately naive fashion, but among her fans the exact opposite feeling is held: Still waters run deep, and this plainspoken muse virtually wrote the book on shy-girl singers.

True to form, she has, for the last 20 years, been a world-class recluse of the Greta Garbo ilk, having not done an interview in almost as much time, suffering from one of the more classic cases of stage fright and generally shying away from publicity as a whole, while still managing to create works of art and music at a fairly prolific rate. She's sort of a genius and stuff.

You live in this town, and you hear things. Over the course of the last year or so, I kept hearing bits and pieces, some hearsay, some fact, about Astrud Gilberto being in Philadelphia. The news was always whispered in hushed, excited tones by people who generally don't whisper (or get excited) about anything. All of them came packed with enough strange whimsy and random intrigue that they could be true.

Page: 1 2 3 4 |Next
Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend


Comments 1 - 40 of 40
Report Violation

1. An eternal fan said... on Jul 19, 2008 at 02:16PM

“Wow. I know you wrote this six years ago, but wow. Thank you. You said much, very much... I envy you that you would follow the song in your heart like this. Thank you for taking me there with your writing.”

Report Violation

2. e.c. said... on Jan 2, 2009 at 11:12PM

“I can definitely confirm that Astrud lived on the Main line for a time. I was in first grade with her son, and they lived around the corner from me. I was friendly with her son and spent time at the house, having no idea who she was, being only a 6 year old, but knew enough to know she was unlike any other main line mommy! ”

Report Violation

3. jonhansen100 (Youtube handle) said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:22AM

“To Author, Thanks so much for your insights to Astrud Gilberto. She must have made a deep impression on my pre-adolescent brain as this impression has lurked somewhere in the dream-state of my unconcious for or - 50 years. Since the advent of Youtube I've been able to indulge my musical curiosities with some abandon. Learning , thru your article, of your subject's "no interview policy" only makes her more interesting to those of us who need to know more. How or what do you ever say to someone like Astrud Gilberto to communicate the feelings drawn out by her art. Maybe there are no words. As life allows me the time, I will continue to study her and encourage the rest of the world to do the same. God bless you Astrud.”

Report Violation

4. Phillip Storey - Sydney Australia said... on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:50AM

“I had the honour of meeting and seeing her everynight for a week at the Catalina NightClub in Hollywood in 1990................Such a beautiful lady and entertainer.....................AH MEMORIES!!!!
Luvs Ya,”

Report Violation

5. Joe Lex, Philadelphia said... on Apr 8, 2010 at 01:47PM

“I read this when it first was published in 2002, and go back to it every year or so. It's still one of the best things I have ever read about a singer that I love. It is similar to the writing of Arthur Phillips about another Brazilian singer, Elis Regina, on his blog and in his novel The Song Is You. I currently feel this way about a Polish singer named Aga Zaryan - take a handful of Carmen McRae and Shirley Horn, add a dash of Abbey Lincoln and Elis Regina, with a pinch of Susannah McCorkle. Alas, she lives in Warsaw so I can't wistfully stand under her window and wonder...”

Report Violation

6. M.G. said... on Apr 25, 2010 at 09:59AM

“She lived in Wynnewood in the 1970's, down the street from my family, and my sister used to babysit her kids. My mother and aunt were huge fans of hers in the 1960's and when my sister told my mom who she was babysitting for, I think my mom nearly passed out! Can you imagine being a huge fan of someone and then finding out that they were living on your street?”

Report Violation

7. Bruce said... on Apr 27, 2010 at 05:36PM

“If I am not mistaken, Astrud Gilberto lives aright around Socirty Hill, I think the 200 block of Locust or Pine Street.”

Report Violation

8. jack divers said... on May 17, 2010 at 07:32PM

“I feel in love with Astrud in 1963 when I first heard "The Girl From Ipanema". I was aboard the USS Hancock in the South China Sea preparing to drop bombs on North Vietnam. I have never been the same after hearing her voice.”

Report Violation

9. Dan said... on Oct 1, 2010 at 08:30AM

“Beautifully written. It takes the feelings of many of us about Astrud and puts them into perfect words.”

Report Violation

10. emanuel said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 10:16PM

“I've been a a great Astrud's fan since I heard "La chica de Ipanema" in 1963......I have almost all his records and really enjoy listening her with her softly and sweet voice since then...I'm 60 and live in a place with all the Gulf of México in the front...Veracruz, a place with a very special feeling for music and dances...with people who likes to live happy all the time....people who likes good music and all kind of dancing....I'd really like to write to Astrud personally to tell her besides my admiration for her in almost all my life...some experiencies that I have with her music...her voice...with all my friends that they met her for wife and my daughter and son.......It would be something fantastic for me to be able to make contact with her.....
Thanks for accept my comments.....and all for... "esa chica bella de cuerpo dorado...del sol de chica más linda que he visto pasar".....”

Report Violation

11. Mr Nick said... on Jun 1, 2011 at 02:53PM

“I have only become obsessed recently.”

Report Violation

12. NDW said... on Jul 15, 2011 at 08:32AM

“I have been obsessed with Astrud Gilberto for about 7 years. I was born in 1970 and remember on occassion hearing Girl From Impanema; I was too young to appreciate the beauty of that song. As I got older, I would continue to hear Girl From Impanema and I come to love it. Around 2004, I was in a bookstore and came across the CD, Astrud Gilberto's Finest Hour and became enamored of her and the music. Her style of singing is so sexy, mysterious, sensual, and beautiful. When you listen to it, one's mind automatically goes to warm, balmy days on a sandswept beach. Ms. Gilberto's music definitely plays a major part in my listening pleasure. She has earned the title of "icon."”

Report Violation

13. ted decerchio said... on Aug 23, 2011 at 06:46PM

“I met Astrud in 1976 @ lankenau when she was visiting a patient-friend that I was taking care of, before her Greta Garbo days.Her friend visiting with her asked me if I knew who "The girl From ipanema" was? I had bought the Getz-Gilberto LP because of the abstract artwork cover years before so I said "you're Astrud Gilberto?" She asked me for her BP to be taken, I said in exchange for her autograph, which is "To Teddy, It was nice meeting you. Astrud Gilberto." Her BP was a little elevated.”

Report Violation

14. Shoshanna said... on Sep 13, 2011 at 03:08PM

“Oh...I am one of those who wished she were she.
I play on my guitar, sing The Girl From Ipanema...and dream.

Report Violation

15. Marc Johnson said... on Sep 26, 2011 at 11:14AM

“I have to say, this article is a beautiful work of art. He so wonderfully portrays the longing we have to "know" someone whose work we have only seen or heard. I love the ham sandwich story. I had a similar happiest moment of my life when I was 19, listening to Maria Muldaur while scrubbing floors in US Navy bootcamp. I did get to meet her, at a concert a few years ago, and I simply stammered my thanks to her for all her work...”

Report Violation

16. Chuckz said... on Jul 20, 2012 at 03:23PM

“WTF? Astrud has been (or was) in town this whole time?!?!? I wouldn't chase her down, but I would peek into every corner in Philly just for a chance to tell her how indescribably awesome "Berimbau" or "She's a Carioca" are and how she makes me giddy with delight. Or I would just buy her an espresso or whatever classy, timeless ladies from Brazil drink.”

Report Violation

17. Alan said... on Jul 26, 2012 at 05:54PM

“beautiful story and beautifully written”

Report Violation

18. Claire said... on Oct 16, 2012 at 08:04PM

“I travel to Philly for work every now and then. I admit I've looked for Astrud on each trip. I'm terrible at recognizing celebrities on the street, and I never approach them when I do. But it's one of my dreams to see beautiful Astrud in person one day and tell her how much joy she's brought to my life. Amazing article - thank you.”

Report Violation

19. Frank M said... on Jan 13, 2013 at 03:11AM

“"perfectly written"

Thank you

Report Violation

20. DJ said... on Mar 13, 2013 at 04:23PM

“Named our daughter after her in the early '90s!”

Report Violation

21. DaddyDale said... on May 21, 2013 at 10:49AM

“I'm a Sergio Mendes fan from the late 60's who's just discovering all his music since my wife got me his new two disc treasury album. Due to that I've been taking side trips to the other artists he worked with. I remember well when "The Girl From Ipanema" came out (got into a fight with my father about it). Of course the thing I remember most is THAT VOICE! This was a really interesting article, and I'm glad I came across it. At age 61 it's good to discover the music I loved when I was young.”

Report Violation

22. DaddyDale said... on May 21, 2013 at 10:49AM

“I'm a Sergio Mendes fan from the late 60's who's just discovering all his music since my wife got me his new two disc treasury album. Due to that I've been taking side trips to the other artists he worked with. I remember well when "The Girl From Ipanema" came out (got into a fight with my father about it). Of course the thing I remember most is THAT VOICE! This was a really interesting article, and I'm glad I came across it. At age 61 it's good to discover the music I loved when I was young.”

Report Violation

23. Perico said... on Jul 6, 2013 at 12:43AM

“Astrud is unreachable as all goddesses are. Sad being unable to tell her in person how much I adore her, and the extreme pleasure she has given to my life during 40 years.
I wish I could retribute in the same quality.
Hope to read her memoirs some day.
Thanks for the article.

Report Violation

24. Mark said... on Nov 19, 2013 at 08:28PM

“Beautiful story. I have recently become re acquainted with Astrud's music. I remember in the early 60s hearing my Dad playing this on the record player. I was 4 or five. so I searched it out on a music web site and fount her album Finest Hour purchased it and now cant stop playing it. I remember four songs that my Dad played like it was yesterday. When I listen to her music I am taken somewhere else and to a different time. Life was simpler there and then.She has a voice like an angel.”

Report Violation

25. sambista said... on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:18PM

“What a wonderful piece, thank you. The music lives on. Washington DC band, Veronneau, recently did a wonderful album celebrating bossa nova, called the Jazz Samba Project. There's also a week long festival in June 2014 at the Strathmore Music Center with Sergio Mendez, Eliane Elias, and many more, including the premiere of a movie about bossa nova and an exhibition from the Felix Grant Jazz Archive, Felix having been the DJ who broke bossa nova in the US.”

Report Violation

26. Len said... on Mar 7, 2014 at 12:08AM

“The bossa nova sound is credibly beautiful. I simply love Gilberto / Jobim music. I am now sixty, while my friends were going wild over the Mid sixties sounds the Beatles and the rest, I fell in love with boss a nova and the Girl from Ipanema. Astrud your beautiful voice will forever be the voice the boss a nova. As a Philadelphian it is even more incredible to come to learn that you are part of our community.

Report Violation

27. VinnyG said... on Mar 19, 2014 at 05:54AM

“Wow! One of the best articles I've read in a long time. Peripheral to the subject, Stan Getz was a Philly boy. I wonder if he might have introduced her to the city during any of the live performances (I'm assuming there was a tour associated with GFI, really don't know) and if that might have had anything to do with Ms. Gilberto's choice of residence.


Report Violation

28. tramy said... on Mar 30, 2014 at 07:30AM

“yesterday was Astrud's bday and thank to the internet i discover this article. Astrud's fan since 5 years ago when i was 20, my love for jazz and bossa nova still growing strong. All the best from Vietnam :)”

Report Violation

29. Terry said... on Apr 1, 2014 at 01:29PM

“Thank you for a wonderful article. Although I love Astrud's music too, your sentiments uncannily describe the way Doris Day's music has touched me. I too struggle with the frustration of wanting to tell her personally how she has affected me and thank her for her gift of music. I grew up in the sixties seeing some of her movies of the period. But I re-discovered her a few years back and come to adore her songs from the forties. I have resigned myself to knowing I can never talk to her, a sad feeling, but one of the ironies of life. April the 3rd 2014 she will be 90 years old. Funny how someone you have never met will always have special place in your heart.”

Report Violation

30. Lee Magri said... on Apr 6, 2014 at 04:44PM

“She was born in 1940, she is far from being 90 years old..She has her reasons for not granting interviews..they do mis-quote you, & much has been said about her..
Read her page, & you know more of how she feels,& her likes, & dislikes..she is quite candid..Her collaboration in the 60's was the best think which happened in the U.S.. I was in New York City then, & that recording was the best which hit the charts.
I have it on L.P., & C.D. Thanks Atrud for bringing us such great music, & memories!”

Report Violation

31. Raluca said... on Apr 19, 2014 at 10:54PM

“Beautiful article about a beautiful songstress and incredibly soulful lady. We were neighbors in the late '90s and she was kind and generous with her time and wisdom. I wish her the best and thank her for the memories and for the music.”

Report Violation

32. Niels Petter Solberg said... on Apr 26, 2014 at 08:54AM

“Thank you for an great article on Astrud Gilberto. I am a big fan of her music and her cause for animal protection rights. Astrud is a singer I never grow tired of listening to, her music selection and voice has such soul, originalty and clearity that you almost depend on it :) The exotic rhytm of Astruds music, sad or happy, always soothing and calming. Her last cd "Jungle" is a discovery many should make and I hope there will be a new album soon. Astrud Gilberto is not an artist that lives for the past, but push forward and use her creative energy, also for the causes she relates and believe in, great respect for that. And to the rhytm of "The Girl from Ipanema" or "Samba d sonho" she always gives you the feeling of happiness, hope and wonder. It is what music is all about for me and I am sure there will be many new fans in the future of Astruds unique talents as a performer and storyteller.

Report Violation

33. Edwin said... on Jan 20, 2015 at 10:31PM

“Thank you for this article of my favorite bossa nova singer. I have almost all of Astrud's albums and especially like several of her songs: "A Certain Sadness", "Light My Fire", "Where Have You Been", and "Make Love To Me". Thank you for this article and I just have to purchase her latest album "Jungle".”

Report Violation

34. laura said... on Jan 21, 2015 at 07:57PM

“Nearly 7 years later, and you're still getting comments on this wonderful article. I was fortunate to see Astrud Gilberto in concert in Chicago back in the early 1990s. As a kid in the early 60s I'd listen to my dad's Getz / Gilberto and Jobim LPs. I've never stopped loving the music. Thank you for this great story.”

Report Violation

35. James Neal said... on Jan 23, 2015 at 02:06PM

“Just like you, I just happened to listen to the Getz-Gilberto album this morning and was immediately transported back to a time and place in my childhood.
Its nice to know that your article is still available & referenced 13 years later.”

Report Violation

36. Neil said... on Feb 5, 2015 at 01:40AM

“A good friend of mine told me that his kid sister hung around w/ one of Astrud's son's in the late 60's or early 70s. He met her also and said she was very glamorous and very nice. He specifically said she was wearing high heals while poole side at her main line home. What a lovely image he planted in my mind. I'll always love could anyone not? Great article!”

Report Violation

37. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2015 at 01:19PM

“Oh this article is so beautiful that it's almost making me cry.”

Report Violation

38. Dr Edward Stim said... on Aug 23, 2015 at 11:37AM

“Astrud Gilberto was only good in collaboration with Stan Getz in the 1960s. Without Stan Getz she is an untalented dope who was carried by the success with Getz and got corrupted by it.
Dr Edward Stim, Bronx expatriate in Tokyo”

Report Violation

39. Joe said... on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:40AM

“As Neil and others have said, the Getz/Gilberto album transports me back to a time in my teens. It was an idyllic time in the US: The "Camelot" Era. "The Girl from Ipanema" has become achingly poignant as I age. She doesn't represent something lascivious; she represents beauty, the joy of youth, carefree, a future of hope and promise. All that is gone in an old man like myself. But... although the feelings per se are gone, that song can at least evoke a memory of those feelings! I don't care that Astrud wasn't a trained singer, or that she's become a recluse. Nothing compares to her original interpretations of the Gilberto songs.”

Report Violation

40. Rich Look said... on Oct 28, 2015 at 08:40PM

“What a magnificent piece of writing! You conjure up a phantom who was phenomenon in a very sensitive and compassionate way..”


(HTML and URLs prohibited)