Bossa Nova Legend João Gilberto Mourned At Rio De Janeiro Funeral

The legendary singer, songwriter, and composer passed away over the weekend.

Singer João Gilberto is pictured.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The legendary singer, songwriter, and composer passed away over the weekend.

Bossa nova. It’s a style of music often associated with tranquil Brazilian getaways by the beach — one that’s deeply ingrained within the fabric of this South American nation’s culture.

One of the key players in pioneering Brazil’s signature sound, folk legend João Gilberto, passed away on Saturday, July 6 at the age of 88 due to natural causes, leaving the country in a mournful state.

The New York Times’ obituary for Gilberto describes the singer, composer, and guitarist as an “architect” for his vast musical contributions, which span far beyond his native country. The pleasant and romantic sound of bossa nova quickly found its way into the ears of American listeners in the 1960s, sparking a new wave of interest in the style of music.

“Mr. Gilberto took strains of Brazilian samba and American pop and jazz and reconfigured them for a new class of young Brazilian city-dwellers, helping to turn bossa nova into a global symbol of a young and confident Brazil,” adds the Times.

One of Gilberto’s best-known recordings is “The Girl From Ipanema,” written by fellow composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. The sultry track features lead vocals from his former wife, singer Astrud Gilberto. The iconic song was famously covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, to Amy Winehouse and Kenny G, shares Billboard.

This Monday, fans, friends, and family members of the composer gathered in Rio de Janeiro to mourn his loss at his funeral, Billboard also reports. The open-casket ceremony took place at the city’s Municipal Theater. His coffin was decorated with elaborate wreaths reading, “To the master of masters, João Gilberto” and “All the love for our genius, João.”

Many of Gilberto’s songs, including “Chega de Saudade” were performed by a choir and orchestra at the event. Of his family members, his daughters Bebel and Luisa Gilberto were spotted singing along to the choir’s renditions. Gilberto’s wife and one of his former spouses were also present at the ceremony.

Fans who attended his funeral also shared how some of their fondest memories are strongly tied to the singer’s music. For many, it is symbolic of their teenage years.

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“That smooth, rhythmical tone to sing, it’s so beautiful…. We used to dance with our boyfriends to this music,” said one of his older fans from Argentina.

Another recalled listening to him since he was 16-years-old.

“He will stay alive inside us, he will not die, his music will not disappear,” said 77-year-old Jader Cruz to Billboard. “He left a mark with that strength he had, that sweetness and love he put while playing, that is unforgettable.”