Dorival Caymmi

As a singer-songwriter and visual artist, Dorival Caymmi provided a significant contribution to the birth of bossa nova in Brazil and its adjacent art forms. Born in Salvador in 1914, Caymmi began to perform on the radio in 1930. Self-taught on guitar and in songwriting, Caymmi never formally studied music but began to achieve success after he composed “O que é que a Baiana tem?” for Carmen Miranda in 1933. He won a local songwriting contest in 1936 and by 1938 had relocated to Rio de Janeiro with the intention of studying law and journalism. In 1939, Miranda performed Caymmi’s song in the film Banana da Terra, which attracted the attention of Odeon Records. The company signed Caymmi that year and he released three singles and began to compose more songs for films. By the 1940s, he was performing on the Radio Nacional network and, in 1944, performed his own song in the film Abacaxi Azul. In the late 1940s, Caymmi became established in Brazil’s samba scene as other artists began to cover and reinterpret his material. The rise of bossa nova in the late 1950s and 1960s led artists—notably Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim—to collaborate with Caymmi and resurrect some of his earliest material. In 1965, an international vogue for Brazilian music led to a translated version of one of Caymmi’s songs, retitled “And Roses and Roses,” which became a hit for Andy Williams. Caymmi subsequently traveled to Los Angeles and recorded an album, Caymmi. He continued to perform and release albums through 2000. He died of kidney cancer in 2008 and left behind a massive songbook that served to describe mid-twentieth century Brazilian identity.