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Gal Costa (1945-2022)

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Gal Costa
Gal Costa, one of Brazil's most respected and beloved singers and recording artists admired as much for her courage as her performing charm, vocal range and vast knowledge of standards and obscure songs, died on November 9. She was 77.

Costa's singing and guitar-playing career began in August of 1964, during a period of enormous musical celebration and political upheaval. At the time, Brazil's capital, Rio De Janeiro, was the center of a global music phenomenon known as the bossa nova. What had begun as a hushed and romantic music style in 1958 had exploded globally as nearly all forms of pop music adapted its beat and covered its songs by Brazilian composers who overnight had become household names.

But late August of 1964 was also a period of enormous dread and sorrow in Brazil. A military coup had taken place in Brazil months earlier, in the spring, when the Brazilian Armed Forces overthrew the country's elected government. The coup was encouraged and supported by the U.S., which in the years following Fidel Castro's overthrow of Cuba in 1959 feared a Communist wave in South American countries where leftest governments were in power and economies were sagging.

In Brazil, citizens were detained, freedoms were curtailed and music that encouraged rebellion was banned. Nevertheless, Costa challenged the regime by recording the songs of artists who were exiled by the government, including Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. Other Brazilian composers, musicians and singers who could work abroad remained there, including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes, Eumir Deodato, Airto, Flora Purim and others.

Costa remained in Brazil and helped champion tropicália, a movement that blended Brazilian samba and African rhythms with elements of British and American psychedelic pop and rock. By 1968, tropicália had fizzled but gave rise to a new post-tropicália style.

In Brazil, there's no greater contribution to society than to be a popular composer or performer. The joy that radiates from the artist to the audience and back is unlike anywhere else in the world. And when such honored artists as Gal Costa pass away, a piece of that culture passes too, which is why the impact is felt so deeply. Costa's joyous music helped define the Brazilian people and their rich culture.

Here are 10 of my favorite Gal Costa clips plus a bonus:

Here's Costa in 1973 singing Volta...



Here's Costa in 1981 with Elis Regina singing Estrada do Sol...



Here's Costa in 1982 singing Meu nome é Gal...



Here's Costa and Jorge Ben in 1982 singing Que Pena...



Here's Costa in the late 1980s singing Meu nome é Gal...



Here's Costa with Roberto Carlos in 1997 singing Sua Estupidez...



Here's Costa in 1999 performing a tribute concert to Antonio Carlos Jobim singing Desafinado...



Here's Costa at the same concert singing A Felicidade...



Here's Costa singing Wave from the same concert...



And here's one of my favorite clips, featuring Costa with Marília Mendonça, a rising Brazilian star when this was recorded in 2018 and the “queen" of sofrência and sertanejo, a music form celebrating female empowerment. A year ago, in November 2021, Mendonça died in an crash when her air taxi went down in Brazil with four others en route to perform a concert. She was 26...



Bonus: Here's a half hour of Costa with Antonio Carlos Jobim in Los Angles in 1987...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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