Caetano Veloso: A Man With a Guitar - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Caetano Veloso: A Man With a Guitar

Caetano Veloso: A Man With a Guitar

By Eugene S. Robinson



Because there is a whole hell of a lot of life left after bossa nova.

By Eugene S. Robinson

There’s actually a name for what happens when you stand in full contemplation of the great goodness that is the musical mountain generated by Caetano Veloso: the Jerusalem Syndrome. 

Which is what shrinks call the phenomenon of people completely losing their minds in the presence of the profound. It’s usually triggered by religious symbols, but musical art will do just fine here. Because just about any entry point into the work of the 71-year-old Brazilian composer, guitarist, singer and winner of nine Latin Grammys and two non-Latin Grammys, has the eerie power to transport you to a place well outside whatever you ever knew about your mind.

Brazilian folk with Afro-Cuban rhythms and pop, all astride his plaintive and sweet-sounding vocal lines.

Precisely the kind of thing that he, along with the equally estimable Gilberto Gil, was arrested for in 1968. Brazil, the country responsible for the free and easy sounds of bossa nova and girls from Ipanema, had apparently had enough of the inherent edge in Veloso’s subversive sound. The fan of Sartre and Heidegger was mixing music, political opinion, poetry and theater into what was a cultural and political revolution called Tropicalismo — it got both Veloso and Gil exiled from their country in 1969, unable to return until 1972.

You see, while he was foundational to Tropicalismo, Veloso’s oeuvre cuts across genres and styles while maintaining a throughline of Brazilian folk with Afro-Cuban rhythms and pop, all astride his plaintive and sweet-sounding vocal lines. Moreover, his discography runs some 60 records deep: Veloso’s creativity and global popularity wasn’t slowed down by his arrest, his post-prison exile in England, his return, or the fact that he didn’t release a record with all-English lyrics until 2004.

Still performing today, he flexes a talent so large and refined it damn near comes close to making us feel like we’re losing our minds. We offer as proof his take on what could be considered the Brazilian national anthem: his young man’s cover of Chega de Saudade.

And our deeply held personal fave, his 1999 tribute to Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina from Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta.


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