Antonio Carlos Jobim's music career is also the story of bossa nova, the genre he helped put on the world map in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His collaborations with poet Vinicius de Moraes and writer-composer Oscar Mendonça gave rise to such timeless classics as Desafinado, Samba de Uma Nota So, Agua de Beber and Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema). Jobim's compositions have been around the world and will forever have an important place in the annals of popular music
Antonio Carlos Jobim (aka "Tom") was born in Rio de Janeiro on January 25, 1927. Brought up in the south side neighbourhood of Ipanema, he learned to play guitar and harmonica as a child. At the age of 14, Jobim studied piano with Hans Joachim Koellreuteur, a former student of Arnold Schoenberg, the father of dodecaphony.
Jobim went on to study architecture before devoting himself exclusively to music. Initially, he played the bar circuit as well as transcribed compositions by other musicians, and he was eventually made artistic director of the Odeon label.
The road to glory
In the early 1950s, Jobim met writer-composer Oscar Mendonça, and the two co-wrote such songs as Desafinado, Samba de Uma Nota So and Meditation. Another fateful meeting took place in 1956, when poet Vinicius de Moraes invited Jobim to set the play Orfeo do Carnaval, a carioca adaptation of the Orpheus myth, to music. Marcel Camus's cinematographic version, titled Orfeu Negro, was a major success in 1959.
Jobim and de Moraes soon drew other musicians into the fold; among them was then-unknown guitarist Joao Gilberto, for whom Jobim and de Moraes wrote some of their most beautiful songs. The combined efforts of this musical fraternity gave rise to a musical movement called bossa nova (loosely translated as "new thing").
In 1962, Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released a popularized version of Desafinado, which enjoyed unexpected success and allowed bossa nova to make itself known beyond Brazil.
Jobim's most famous song took the world by storm in 1964. Recorded by Getz and Joao Gilberto, The Girl from Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema) was a monster hit. Countless interpretations and versions of the song have since been recorded. The original version was sung by Astrud Gilberto, the wife of Joao.
Interest in bossa nova began to wane at the end of the 1960s, with Jobim himself stepping back from the genre he helped to create and that made him famous. Instead, he shifted his focus to the music of one of his masters, composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, and set about creating more ambitious works.
In 1987 Jobim released one of his most accomplished albums. Passarim is an ambitious work that bears eloquent testimony to the composer's environmental concerns. Two of the pieces on the album were written by his son, Paulo Jobim.
A year earlier, Jobim made his first and only visit to the Festival. It also marked his first appearance in Montreal. Jobim had just formed a new group and had begun to tour again. The album Antonio Carlos Jobim and Friends, recorded in Sao Paolo in the autumn of 1993, was immortalized during Jobim's penultimate tour.
"Tom" Jobim passed away in New York on December 8, 1994, due to complications from heart failure. Tributes poured in from all over the world.