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No doubt when you're strolling along Ipanema beach or bathing in its waters, the famous song "The Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl from Ipanema") will pop into your head.
Rio is the birthplace of great musicians and major musical genres whose fame has reached all corners of the world. On one hand there's Samba, whose cheer and colours have made it the hallmark of the famous Rio Carnival, and on the other, there's Bossa Nova, with its soft, delicate rhythms.
Talking about Bossa Nova, one song stands out above all others. You could say that Ipanema has its own anthem: La Garota de Ipanema. The lyrics were written by poet and musician Vinicius de Moraes to music composed by Tom Jobim.
Near posto 9, at the intersection between the streets Vinicius de Moraes and Prudente de Morais, stands La Garota de Ipanema bar, which was called Bar Veloso in its day.
The story goes that both musicians were having a drink at this bar, like they often did, and were composing a song, but they weren't keen on the lyrics. In the end, inspiration came in the form of a beautiful young carioca who passed the bar every morning on her way to the beach.
Since the song's appearance in August 1962, many carioca girls have dreamed of providing inspiration for two of the most important musicians of the time.
But the real girl from Ipanema, Heloísa Eneida Menezes Pais Pinto, better known as Helô, dazzled the musicians with her beauty and youth (she was only 17 years old) when they saw her passing by on her way to the beach. And that's what started it all.
Helô was initially indifferent to the whole thing. The musicians invited her to sit with them, but although she was flattered, she was too young and shy to accept the invitation.
When the song gained international fame, everyone wondered who this "girl who passes by... so filled with grace" was, but her identity remained a mystery until three years later, in 1965, when Vinicius spoke to Helô's mother and asked her permission to publicise her identity, news that came as a surprise even to Helô herself.
Everyone wanted to know more about the Girl from Ipanema and fame was inevitable, although she didn't believe she had really inspired the song. Thus began a beautiful friendship with the musicians. Tom Jobim is even said to have proposed to her, despite being 18 years her senior. But Helô was already engaged, and despite his attempts to change her mind, Jobim finally resigned himself to rejection and instead was the best man at her wedding.
Helô's life was completely transformed. She went from being an unknown young woman who was studying to become a teacher, to a symbol of Ipanema beach. Being the focus of so many interviews and photo sessions eventually led her to devote herself to the world of fashion and acting. Actress, television host, fashion entrepreneur and even Playboy model, she is also a mother and has been married to her first love for more than 50 years.
Cariocas have a deep love for this song, because for those who regularly go to the beaches of Ipanema, she represents the perfect carioca girl, with her golden skin and her swaying hips as she walks, who captures the hearts of many.
As Vinicius de Moraes himself said of his muse: "She was and is for us the paradigm of the young carioca: a golden teenage girl, a mixture of flower and mermaid, full of light and grace."
Numerous versions of La Garota de Ipanema have been recorded since it was first interpreted by Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim in 1962. Pery Ribeiro recorded it for release in 1963, but it did not achieve fame until 1964, when Astrud Gilberto lent her voice to it and whose version, along with Stan Getz, gained worldwide success. Frank Sinatra accompanied on guitar by Tom Jobim himself, Nat King Cole, Cher, Diana Krall and even the extraordinary Amy Winehouse in 2002 are just some of the artists who have covered this wonderful song.
And this magnificent Brazilian coast is sure to inspire many more songs.
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