Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dorival Caymmi, 1914-2008

I was shocked this morning to hear the news of Dorival Caymmi's death. He was 94 years old, so it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise, but it still feels like a strong presence is suddenly gone. Oh, he's still here of course, his songs are still all over the place and inspiring people every day. (Coincidentally, my winamp had been playing his songs on random much more often than usual over the past 2 days. Maybe it was trying to tell me something.)
You've heard his songs, even if you may not know it. Over the years, from the late forties onwards, his songs have been all over the place.

I've made a little compilation, with a dozen of his songs - as performed by himself and by many of his colleagues and a couple of tributes.
You can download it here. Link removed due to a DMCA copyright claim! The whole thing can be heard at this Spotify link, minus the offending track (the one from Jobim's final studio album, which apparently is now in copyright limbo).

Dorival was one of the giants that came before our musical forefathers, and his songs are part of the cultural mud that links us all and it's always good to go back to the genius and the simplicity of his songs, as if we were lizards remembering the time they were dinosaurs.

A quick runthrough of the compilation contents:
Gilberto Gil & Nana Caymmi - Buda Nagô
A tribute to the master, penned by Gilberto Gil and sung with Dorival's daughter (and Gil's ex-wife) Nana. I first heard this song at my first GG concert, back in 1997. It's from the 1991 Parabolicamara album.
Caetano Veloso - Coqueiro De Itapoã
From the 1982 Cores, Nomes album.
Stan Getz & João Gilberto - Doralice
From the quintessential Getz/Gilberto album, 1962. Once again, 24 years after the first time, a Dorival song is included in an international hit album.
Arto Lindsay & The Ambitious Lovers - Dora
Even in the New York post-No Wave, a Caymmi classic can't help showing up.
Tom Jobim & Dorival Caymmi - Saudade da Bahia
A beautiful, heartfelt rendition from two masters of 20th century brasilian popular music.
Carmen Miranda - O que è que a bahiana tem
From the late thirties, the first brasilian superstar makes this Caymmi song an instant classic.
Garganta Profunda - 365 Igrejas
I love the arrangement on this version, it works so perfectly.
The song has one of my absolute favourite lyrics, beautifully simple:

365 Igrejas, a bahia tem
Numa eu me batizei
Na segunda eu me crismei
Na terceira eu vou casar com uma mulher que eu quero bem

It doesn't get much simpler, or better than that. Why try to write complicated, thoughtful lyrics when things like this exist?
Elza Soares - Rosa Morena
An exceptional version from an exceptional voice.
João Gilberto - Rosa Morena
No version is however better than this one. This is from the famous session where João used up an inordinate amount of takes - 59 i think - just to get the right sound on the first "o" of the first word.
Gilberto Gil - Marina
Too poppy and overproduced perhaps (it was, after all, 1979)
but it still works. Some songs are exceptionally hard to do wrong.
Tom Jobim - Maricotinha
From Jobim's final album, another duet. This time with plenty of jobims and caymmis on the backing track - they both had very extended musical families, most of whom were part of Jobim's recording team. A video of the rehearsals can be seen here.
Marlui Miranda & Ulisses Rocha - Promessas de Pescador
Even in such a different arrangement, the basics remain.
João Gilberto - Na Baixa Do Sapateiro
João's guitar sings one of Dorival's most famous songs. A classic rendition, Caetano recorded a cover of it (yes, a cover of a cover) on his Livro album, in 1997.
João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil - Milagre
The way the three voices blend together is a true marvel.
Gilberto Gil - Buda Nago
Gilberto Gil reprises his tribute, this time solo voice and guitar, at a 1993 concert in Umbria with Caetano Veloso.
Dorival Caymmi - Na Baixa Do Sapateiro
Just Dorival and his guitar.