Veloso, Caetano 1942-
VELOSO, Caetano 1942-
Born August 7, 1942, in Santo Amaro da Purificao, Bahia, Brazil; Education: Attended Federal University of Bahia (philosophy), 1963-66.
Agent—Nonesuch Records, c/o Debbie Ferraro, 75 Rockefeller Plaza., New York, NY 10019.
Musician, composer, performer, writer, poet, and painter. Has recorded over thirty albums for labels including PolyGram, Warner, Phillips, and Nonesuch. As a performer, tours widely in Brazil and around the world.
Alegria, Alegria, P. Q. Ronca (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1977.
Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
AUTHOR OF LYRICS; SOUND RECORDING
Domingo, PolyGram (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1969.
Barra 69, PolyGram (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1971.
Transa, PolyGram (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1972.
Araca Azul, PolyGram (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1973.
Temporada de Veraro, PolyGram (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1974.
A arte de Caetano Veloso, Fontana (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1975.
Historia da tropicalia, Philips (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1985.
Caetano Veloso, Nonesuch (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Chico Buarque) Melhores momentos de Chico e Caetano, Som Livre (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1986.
Sem lenco sem documento, PolyGram (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1989.
Estrangeiro, Nonesuch (New York, NY), 1989.
Circulado, Nonesuch (New York, NY), 1991.
Os Cariocas, Warner (São Paulo, Brazil), 1992.
Fina Estampa, PolyGram, 1994.
(With Gilberto Gil) Tropicalia 2, Nonesuch (New York, NY), 1994.
Livro, Nonesuch (New York, NY), 1999.
Live in Bahia, Nonesuch (New York, NY), 2002.
Brazilian singer and songwriter Caetano Veloso came to prominence during the 1960s "tropicalia" movement, a fusion of folk, popular, and foreign musical influences. A musician of the stature of Bob Dylan or John Lennon in those men's respective countries, Veloso is "the elder statesman of Brazilian popular music," according to Larry Rohter in New York Times. "He has been an indelible cultural force in this country since the 1960's [and] many of the 325 or so songs he has written are now standards [in Brazil]," Rohter further noted. According to Newsweek's Malcolm Jones, "Veloso elevates prankishness to an esthetic." Comfortable in musical idioms from jazz to pop to bossa nova, rap, funk, and Afro-Brazilian, Veloso is no mere musical chameleon. His music and the musical movement he helped found have been a vital feature of the Brazilian scene for almost four decades, and his influence on world music has greatly increased since the 1990s and the first original issuing of one of his recordings in the American market.
Born in a small town of the Bahian province in 1942, Veloso grew up listening to Caribbean, African, and even North American pop music. The bossa nova of João Gilberto of the 1950s were also a powerful influence. Veloso's family moved to Salvador in 1960 so he could attend high school there, and in 1963 he entered the Federal University of Bahia where he studied philosophy. He also began singing bossa nova in bars during these years, as well as penning articles for a local newspaper and acting in avant-garde theater. His sister, Maria Bethania, meanwhile was embarking on what would be a very successful singing career. In 1966, Veloso accompanied her to Rio de Janeiro, where she became involved in the theater. He was not only along for the ride, however; soon he had won a lyric-writing contest with his song "Um Dia," and was signed on the Phillips label. He competed in various music festivals and began to build a following for his music, still strongly influenced by bossa nova at this time.
Soon Veloso had joined forces with other young artists, such as Gal Costa and Gilbert Gil—with whom he had been friends since his Salvador days—to create a new wave in Brazilian music that blended such foreign elements as rock with more traditional forms of Brazilian music and began to blur the border between low and high music. His early singles hits, the 1967 "Alegria, Alegria" (Happiness, Happiness), and the 1968 "Tropicalia," as well as his first album, Domingo, helped to define the aesthetics of the new movement. "Arty and eclectic, Tropicalismo retained a bossa nova influence," wrote Laura Hightower in Contemporary Musicians, "but added elements of folk-rock and art-rock to a mixture of loud electric guitars, poetic spoken-work sections, and jazz-like dissonance."
Outspoken culturally as well as politically, Veloso and Gil soon came under the watchful eye of the military dictatorship that, by the mid-1960s, had been ruling Brazil for two decades. Censorship was a normal course of events on Brazilian television and the rest of the media, including the music industry. Arrested for supposed anti-government activity in 1968, they spent two months in prison and the following year Veloso was exiled. He spent nearly three years in London, until he was granted permission once again to live in Brazil in 1972. Since then, his reputation as a musician has grown, and this was added to by the publication of a book of articles, lyrics and poems titled Alegria, Alegria in 1977. His first U.S. appearance was in 1983, when he performed to sold-out crowds in New York City. In 1989 his first non-import release, Estrangeiro, helped further advance his popularity among U.S. audiences. The 1993 recording Tropicalia 2 made it onto many top ten-lists in the United States; Veloso showed his versatility also with the Spanish-language recording Fina Estampa, celebrating the Latin American songs which he had enjoyed since a youth.
With growing popularity in the United States, Veloso mounted a large American tour in 1997, and two years later brought out the album Livro, voted one of the best albums of the year both by New York Times and Rolling Stone. Jones, writing in Newsweek, praised that album, commenting that "by the second song, in which books are extolled for their intellectual and their material benefits …you know you are in the presence of a master writer."
With Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution, Veloso once again surprised the public by turning to memoir and social history. Published in Brazil in 1997, and in English translation in 2002, the book is Veloso's testament, a "fascinating look into the world of one of the great creative forces in popular music, and indeed into the broader cultural life of Brazil," according to Tom Moore writing in Notes. The book traces Veloso's life journey from his Bahian beginnings to his love for bossa nova and to the formation of tropicalismo. His years in exile in London are also covered as well as his return to Brazil in 1972. "Veloso's book recaptures the turmoil and excitement of that time," according to Rohter, "including an insider's account of a hilariously chaotic but historic performance at a song festival." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Gerald Marzorati noted that Veloso "is likely to be remembered as one of the era's great composers," and one of the innovators of truly global music. "In that sense, he was a revolutionary for sure," concluded Marzorati. Moore dubbed the memoir "an important book," while Booklist's Brad Hooper felt it is "not, strictly speaking, an autobiography but more a personal history of tropicalismo." For Hooper, however, the "wordy and indirect prose style" limits the book's popularity. Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly called the book "rambling," but also praised it as an "extremely erudite memoir." James E. Perone voiced similar sentiments in Library Journal, noting that Veloso "exhibits a rare, vibrant erudition while tracing how in the 1960s he and his friends developed a post-bossa nova music and movement called tropicalismo."
Riding a crest of a wave of popularity, Veloso also released a double retrospective album in 2002, Live in Bahia. As Rohter noted, Veloso occupies a "curious" niche in Brazilian society: "His opinions on subjects from politics to race relations are constantly sought, valued and dissected, and the songs he has written over the years are heard everywhere." He even had his first million-selling hit in 1998. Ironically, it was not one of his own deeply felt compositions, but a cover he sang for a television soap opera.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hightower, Laura, Contemporary Musicians, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000, pp. 237-240.
Billboard, October 8, 1994, John Lannert, "Brazil's Veloso Makes Classic Songs His Own on New PolyGram Latino Set," p. 59.
Booklist, September 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of Tropical Truth, p. 39.
Diogenes, fall, 2000, Ariane Witkowski, "Caetano Veloso or the Taste for Hybrid Language," pp. 126-135.
Down Beat, October, 1999, Aaron Cohen, "Backstage with …Caetano Veloso," p. 14.
Granta, winter, 2001, John Ryle, "Translating Caetano," pp. 149-157.
Library Journal, October 15, 2002, James E. Perone, review of Tropical Truth, p. 76.
Newsweek, July 12, 1999, Malcolm Jones, "Troubadour with a Twist: Brazilian Musicians Are Out to Reinvent the Latin Sound, and Caetano Veloso Is Leading the Charge," p. 67.
New York Times, June 23, 1997, Peter Watrous, "Caetano Veloso," p. B3; June 29, 1999, Ben Ratliff, "Wily Mixer of Cool Jazz, Brazilian Pop and High Art," p. B1; May 20, 2002, Jon Pareles, "Pop Embracing Its Ancestors," p. AR34; November 17, 2002, Larry Rohter, "A Revolutionary Who's Still on the Move," p. L27.
New York Times Book Review, September 29, 2002, Gerald Marzorati, "Beyong the Bossa Nova," p. 19.
Notes, December, 1999, Tom Moore, review of Verdade tropical, pp. 429-430.
Publishers Weekly, September 2, 2002, review of Tropical Truth, p. 68.
Rolling Stone, June 25, 1992, Stephen Holder, review of Circulado, p. 45; December 19, 1992, Mark Coleman, review of Circulado, p. 182; August 11, 1994, Daisann McLane, review of Tropicalia 2, p. 69.
Spin, June, 1999, pp. 106-112.
Albertos.com,http://www.albertos.com/bands/ (April 9, 2003), "Caetano Veloso."
Borzoi Reader Online,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (April 9, 2003).
Cosmopolis.ch,http://www.cosmopolis.ch/ (June, 2000), "Caetano Veloso."
MetroActive Music Web site,http://www.metroactive.com/ (November 28, 2002), Greg Cahill, "Tropical Truth: Caetano Veloso Gets Long Deserved Nod."
NewsHour Online,http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ (April 9, 2003), Jason Manning, "Caetano Veloso—Biography."*