Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian bossa nova singer best known for her rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema,” passed away at age 83 (June 5). Musician and family friend Paul Ricci confirmed the news, though he provided no further details.
Born on March 29, 1940, in Bahia, Brazil, to a German father and Brazilian mother, Astrud Gilberto moved to Rio de Janeiro during her childhood. She met João Gilberto when she was 19, and they married shortly after. Astrud began singing with a close circle of musician friends, including Vinicius de Moraes, who co-wrote “The Girl From Ipanema” with collaborator Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Astrud’s illustrious four-decade career reached its peak with her rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema.” Joined by American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz and her then-husband João, Astrud’s mesmerizing vocals accompanied by the English lyrics penned by Norman Gimbel created what would become her biggest and most emblematic hit.
Despite her lack of professional singing experience at the time, there are different accounts about why Astrud was brought into the recording sessions for the Getz/Gilberto LP. Although the story might still be contested, most will agree that Astrud’s contribution was serendipitous and the reason for the song’s success. “The Girl From Ipanema” soared to No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1964.
The success of the single catapulted Astrud into a successful solo career. She went on to record numerous albums and collaborate with renowned musicians such as Gil Evans, James Last, and George Michael, among others. In 2008, Astrud was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Latin Grammys.
“The Girl From Ipanema” eventually became one of the most-covered songs in pop music history, including Julio Iglesias and Amy Winehouse. Astrud is credited with having influenced artists such as Sade, Sinead O’Connor, and Kali Uchis.
Astrud became a more elusive figure in 2001 when she decided to take indefinite time off from touring and recording to spend more time with her family. According to her official website, seemingly last updated in 2016, the artist did not make herself available for any interviews, with zero exemptions to this policy. Despite being guarded about her personal life, Astrud used her website to communicate to her fans about charities that benefitted children and animals.