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Dorival Caymmi Singer of Brazil Dies at 94


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Dorival Caymmi, a Brazilian singer and songwriter who helped lay the foundations of bossa nova, wrote Carmen Miranda's first hit and gave legendary voice to the romance of the beaches, fishing villages and bathing beauties of his native Bahia, died on Saturday at his home in Rio de Janeiro. He was 94.

Dorival Caymmi helped lay the foundations of bossa nova. The cause was multiple organ failure, according to accounts in the Brazilian news media. Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, praised him as “one of the founders of Brazilian popular music."

Mr. Caymmi's career encompassed 60 years and about 20 albums, the last one released four years ago. But his influence transcended such measurable milestones and found enduring expression in the music of Brazilian greats like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

In an introduction to an anthology of Mr. Caymmi's work in 1994, Jobim, the driving force behind bossa nova, a sophisticated jazz style derived from samba, wrote: “Dorival is a universal genius. He picked up the guitar and orchestrated the world."

From the beginning of his career, Mr. Caymmi musically imbued his country with a rhythmic, romantic identity that went well with Brazil's enticing geography and sultry, bikini-clad women. His first and immediately popular song, written at 16, “O Que Que a Baiana Tem?" ("What Is It About Brazilian Women?"), set the tone.

That song became the first hit of Carmen Miranda, whose well-displayed limbs, extravagant hats and exuberant voice made her a global sensation as the Brazilian Bombshell. In 1996, the publication News From Brazil said Mr. Caymmi taught Ms. Miranda to move her arms and hands with the music, which became her trademark.

Songs like “Marina" (1944) and “O Samba da Minha Terra" (1941) inspired the greats of bossa nova. Mr. Caymmi's easygoing style was compared by some to that of Bing Crosby, not least because of his similar velvety baritone.

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