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[1] Imagine walking down the aisle of a Chicago record store in December 1962. You would have been inundated with music marketed as “bossa nova.” In your store’s long-playing (LP) section, you would have seen Barney Kessell’s LP Bossa Nova next to Ramsey Lewis’s similarly titled Bossa Nova. Shorty Rodger’s Bossa Nova would be close by. Tito Puente’s Bossa Nova by Puente and Lalo Schifrin’s Bossa Nova: New Brazilian Jazz would be as well. If you walked a bit further down the aisle, you would have come across Leroy Holmes’ Leroy Holmes Goes Latin for Bossa Nova. If your store had an international section, you may even have seen Barclay Records’ Dansez Bossa Nova Avec Harold Nicholas.

[2] The 45-RPM section may have contained an even more impressive number of offerings. While browsing the aisle, you could have come across music marketed specifically for dancing: Frankie Avalon’s “Dance the Bossa Nova” sitting close to Howard Crook’s “Limbo Nova.” The title of the latter not only referred to the new interest in bossa nova. It referenced the limbo dance from Trinidad that captivated American audiences during the 1950s as well. You could pick up “Tequila Bossa Nova” by the Piltdown Men or “Whispering Bossa Nova” by Cal Tjader. Sometimes it could be difficult to tell the difference between all these singles. Roy Eldridge and June Christy both released different songs titled “Bossa Nova” while Les Elgart, Lionel Hampton, John Conte, and the 20th Century Strings all released renditions of “Recado Bossa Nova,” a song written by Brazilian composers Luiz Antônio and Djalma Ferreira. Ultimately, after surveying your options, you decided to pick up Eddie Cano’s “Barsanova Brown.” However, while walking to the register with the record in your arm, you suddenly remembered you saw The Lido’s “Bashanova” sitting right next to Merv Griffin’s “Cassanova Bossa Nova.” Not able to discern why you should choose one over the other, you picked up all three just in case. You would not have come across such LPs or 45 titles had you walked into your store a couple months earlier. However, by late 1962 you would have read the phrase “bossa nova” everywhere.

[3] “But wait,” the cashier may have interjected just as they were about to ring your purchases up: “bossa nova is not just a term like ‘swinging’ or ‘soulful’ that the record industry is using to market and classify new albums. It also refers to repertoire of music that originated in Brazil during the 1950s.” This music, in the cashier’s simplistic but not entirely incorrect explanation, merged jazz harmonies with the traditional rhythms of Afro-Brazilian samba.          You may have already come to this conclusion after having read Lalo Schifrin’s instructive album title, Bossa Nova: New Brazilian Jazz. However, the cashier may have also offered more information. Multiple Brazilian musicians and composers helped cultivate the sound of bossa nova. Composers included not only Luiz Antônio and Djalma Ferreira (of “Recado bossa nova” fame) but Antônio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, João Gilberto, Laurindo Almeida, Bola Sete, and lyricist Vinícius de Moraes. Several of these composers penned what ultimately become popular bossa nova standards. Examples include songs like “Recado bossa nova,” “Corcovado,” “Insensatez,” “Samba de uma nota só,” “A felicidade,” “O pato,” “O barquinho,” “Chega de saudade,” “Desafinado,” and perhaps the most famous in the United States, “Garota de Ipanema.” These Brazilians also performed their own music, much of it released and available to American consumers. “Come, I’ll show you,” the cashier may have offered. Imagine the scene. Taking you down the international LP aisle you passed minutes ago, the cashier would have introduced you to bossa nova albums like ¡Amor! The Fabulous Guitar of Luiz Bonfá lying right next to Brazil’s Brilliant João Gilberto. Such Brazilian innovators played their music with a relaxed vocal timbre, almost whispering into the microphone. They developed a novel guitar technique (batida) that emulated the sounds and rhythms of the Brazilian batucada (drum line). They sang about love, women, longing, homesickness, and nature. And they took harmonic and musical elements from Claude Debussy and Stan Kenton. Several of these albums influenced many non-Brazilian musicians who often recorded their own renditions of these famous bossa nova songs.

[4] Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Jazz Samba – another album whose title eloquently more or less defined the sound of bossa nova – offered the best example of these American-born bossa nova albums. Recorded in the spring of 1962, Jazz Samba became an immediate success and helped start the bossa nova craze in the United States. It was spurred along by a successful single from the album, “Desafinado.” Written originally by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça, it was initially recorded by João Gilberto in November 1958. Getz and Byrd’s version, recorded some three years later, first charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 on September 29, 1962. It also spent 16 weeks there, peaking at number 15. It made an appearance on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts as well, debuting on November 17, spending five weeks there, and peaking at number 6. Given its popularity, you may have decided to pick up Jazz Samba and add it to the rest of your purchases. However, you could have also added any of the many other renditions of “Desafinado” recorded by artists like Coleman Hawkins, Pat Thomas, Ella Fitzgerald, Mavis Rivers, Bob Gallo, and Sy Zyntner who tried to capitalize on Getz and Byrd’s success. As you were walking back down the 45-RPM section, the cashier probably also alerted you to several recordings of other Brazilian-composed songs. Examples included “A felicidade” and “Samba de uma nota só” which were released as singles by Betty Carter, The Hi-Los, and The Tokens. (The latter group had just released the famous version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” a year earlier.) Sometimes, performers recorded such songs as instrumentals and eschewed the Portuguese lyrics prevalent in Brazilian bossa nova recordings. Occasionally, Americans took their shot singing in Portuguese. Other times, performers sang versions in English written by lyricists such as Norman Gimbel and Gene Lees.          They turned songs titled “Desafinado” into “Off Key” and “Chega de saudade” into “No More Blues,” usually betraying the rhythm of the Portuguese originals and ignoring the songs’ intended meanings.          At this point, you had seen enough. You would have thanked the cashier for expanding your understanding of bossa nova and made your way back to the checkout counter.

[5] “I have some more,” the cashier likely yelled as you were walking towards the front of the store. Bossa nova music did not just refer to a marketing term or a list of Brazilian-composed repertoire. It also referred to a distinct Brazilian rhythm, called a clave, that began to permeate American popular music. Once they got your attention, the cashier clapped it out for you with the misplaced confidence of someone who had written a dissertation on the topic:


The presence of this rhythm, the cashier alerted you, contributed to what contemporary reviewers in Cash Box and Billboard magazines called a “bossa nova style” or “bossa nova idiom.”          Music recorded in a “bossa nova style” did not necessarily market itself as “bossa nova.” Similarly, musicians did not have to record renditions of Brazilian-composed bossa nova songs like “Desafinado” or “Recado bossa nova” for critics to call their music “bossa nova.” Rather, songs like “Our Day Will Come,” recorded by Ruby and the Romantics, took several of the rhythmic elements of Brazilian bossa nova and incorporated them into records that would otherwise seem to have nothing to do with bossa nova at all. Just like how the Hawaiian steel guitar or the Cuban clave impacted twentieth century American music, bossa nova influenced all aspects of popular music.          At this point, the cashier would have pointed to a dizzying array of records recorded “in a bossa nova idiom.” Some of them, such as Joe Harnell’s “Fly Me to the Moon” took old standards from the American songbook and infused them with the new rhythms of bossa nova. Others, like “Our Day Will Come,” were written by Mort Garson and Bob Hilliard in 1962 and included bossa nova rhythms as part of the song’s original identity. Overwhelmed by the amount of easy-listening, jazz, rock, soul, and doo-wop that contained this rhythm, you may have quickly picked up a record in a bossa nova idiom, The Ramrocks’ 45-RPM “Benfica,” and made your way to the register just to get the entire shopping process over with. As you finally prepared to step out into the cold Chicago winter, your eye may have wandered to any number of columns from Kay Loring or Bob Hunter printed in the Chicago Tribune that was half-crumpled on the record store’s newsstand. Writing during the last couple days of December, Loring and Hunter crowned 1962 the “year of the bossa nova.”          Based on your experience at your local record store, it was easy to see why.

[6] However, this bossa nova fad did not just last one year. Take its success at the GRAMMYs as a barometer of the craze’s longevity. Bossa nova captivated American audiences throughout the decade. In 1963, Stan Getz won Best Jazz Performance by Soloist or Small Group – Instrumental for his playing on the single, “Desafinado.” Bandleader Joe Harnell also won Best Performance by an Orchestra – for Dancing thanks to his bossa nova version of “Fly Me to the Moon.” In 1965, bossa nova swept the GRAMMYs. Stan Getz and João Gilberto won Album of the Year for Getz/Gilberto. The album also won Phil Ramone an award for Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical, gave Astrud Gilberto the Record of the Year thanks to her singing on “Garota de Ipanema,” and awarded Stan Getz another GRAMMY for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Small Group or Soloist. In addition, Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida received the award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Large Group or Soloist with Large Group due to his album Guitar from Ipanema. This list does not even contain all the nominees who recorded bossa nova but did not win.

[7] Yet, despite the popularity of bossa nova music, Americans’ interest in the genre had been slowly waning throughout the decade. Already by 1963 a letter to the editor of the jazz periodical DownBeat noted that “this bossa nova business has gotten out of hand.”          Likewise, if you were walking around Chicago, you may have also seen a sign that read “Bossa Nova, Go Home!” hanging outside The Scene, a local music venue.          Several commentators in the press already found bossa nova “outmoded” and Billboard magazine was reporting that record labels were thinking about reducing the amount of bossa nova records they released in the future.          By 1964, record distributors were reporting the bossa nova “faddism” had disappeared.          In 1965, Atlantic Records’ vice president, Nesuhi Ertegun, admitted that the words “bossa nova” were “taboo on albums.”          By the end of the decade, songs that charted in the earlier half of the decade, like Eydie Gormé’s “Blame It on the Bossa Nova,” were called “Yesteryear Hits.”            Furthermore, whenever critics devoted time to reviewing bossa nova records, they usually reviewed re-releases of records originally released in 1963. This decision testifies to the waning interest amongst musicians and audiences in the genre by the late 1960s.


[8] Nothing exemplified the decline of bossa nova more than the story of the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim. In 1968, the self-titled album seemed destined to win Album of the Year. Sinatra had won Album of the Year the previous two years for his albums September of My Years and A Man and his Music. He was consequently on track to attain a GRAMMY threepeat. Admittedly, the term “threepeat” is a bit anachronistic. The phrase would not gain widespread use in English lexicon until 1989, when Pat Riley, the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, registered “threepeat” as a trademarked term that described the process, and more specifically the success, of winning three sports championships in a row. The Lakers, led by Riley and future hall-of-famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, were poised to achieve a threepeat in 1989. However, they came up short in a rematch against Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and the infamous “bad boy-era” Detroit Pistons. Sinatra suffered the same fate the Lakers would some thirty years later. In 1968, The Beatles, with their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, swooped in, won Album of the Year, and snatched the threepeat from Sinatra’s hands in classic Dennis Rodman-like fashion. Musicians still recorded bossa nova albums after this point. Jobim’s 1970 album, Stone Flower, has stood the test of time and is often cited by contemporary critics as one of his better albums.          Similarly, record producer Creed Taylor formed the label CTI in 1970, successfully recording bossa nova performed by artists like Astrud Gilberto and Walter Wanderley. However, by the end of 1960s, bossa nova did not captivate American audiences in the same way that it did at the beginning of the decade.

Gerard Béhague’s “Bossa & Bossas: Recent Changes in Brazilian Urban Popular Music,” Ethnomusicology 17, no. 2 (May 1973): 209–23 questions the extent to which jazz music influenced bossa nova: a genre typically devoid of improvisation. Béhague argues that classical music, instead, influenced composers like Jobim. However, the American press often understood bossa nova as indebted to the music of jazz artists like Stan Kenton and Frank Sinatra

During this study, I refer to the original Portuguese titles of songs (“Garota de Ipanema”) and never the English title (“The Girl from Ipanema”) when discussing examples of instrumental recordings. Such recordings predominate in the writing. I do this even when albums publish the English titles of songs on the track list. I hope by standardizing song titles, I can avoid the confusion that arises by having to constantly point out that “Desafinado” is also titled “Slightly Out of Tune” and “Corcovado” is also “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” etc. As a result of this decision, I defer to Portuguese rules of capitalization. However, in the rare instances when I discuss versions of bossa nova songs sung in English, I refer to the English title. You can read more about the work of lyricists like Norman Gimbel and Gene Lees and their collaborations with bossa nova musicians in David Treece, “Não tem tradução? Tom e Vinícius em inglês,” in Palavra Cantada, ed. Cláudia Neiva de Matos, Fernanda Teixeira de Medeiros, and Leonardo Davino de Oliveira (Rio de Janeiro: EDUERJ, 2015), 113–25.

Charles A. Perrone, “Bossa Nova on Balance: Words, Lyrics, Song Texts and Other Oddities of English-Language Versions,” in Brazil’s Northern Wave: Bossa Nova Fifty Years After Carnegie Hall, ed. Jason Stanyek and Frederick Moehn (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, in press).

Ned Sublette writes the rhythm of the Cuban son clave in a clever way in his study of the interrelationship between African American and Chicano rock musicians. See “The Kingsmen and the Cha-Cha-Chá,” in Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music, ed. Eric Weisbard (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 69–94. This description tries to replicate his ingenuity.

Keir Keightley calls this “bossa nova-icity” in “Un Voyage via Barquinho ... Global Circulation, Musical Hybridization, and Adult Modernity, 1961-9,” in Migrating Music, ed. Jason Toynbee and Byron Dueck (New York, NY: Routledge, 2011): 113.

John W. Troutman, Kika Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2016); John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Kay Loring, “Ring Out the Old,” Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1962, 12; Bob Hunter, “High Points of Show Biz in ’62 From Russ to Bossa Reviewed,” Chicago Defender, December 31, 1962, 16.

Art Scott, “Bossa Nova Ad Absurdum,” DownBeat, January 17, 1963, 8.

Herb Lyon, “Tower Ticker,” Chicago Tribune, January 14, 1963, 18.

Jack Maher, “Label Planning Leans Heavily on New Style,” Billboard, May 4, 1963, 8.

“Music as Written,” Billboard, February 22, 1964, 33.

“Atlantic Releasing Its First Album of Brazil ’65 Group,” Billboard, July 17, 1965, 8.

“Yesteryear’s Hits,” Billboard, March 16, 1968, 36.

“Jazz: Lalo Schifrin - The Other Side of Lalo Schifrin,” Billboard, April 6, 1968, 64; “Jazz: Cannonball Adderley - Bossa Rio Sextet,” Billboard, May 18, 1968.

Bryan McCann, “Stone Flower,” 333 Sound (blog), November 29, 2018,


[9] This project offers a kaleidoscopic view of this bossa nova craze that swept the United States during the 1960s. It relies on the narrative device that Japanese director Akira Kurosawa adopts in his critically acclaimed film, Rashoman. It tells the history of bossa nova from various vantage points, to quote the title of Pete Travis’ far less critically acclaimed film, Vantage Point. The chapters that follow each describe bossa nova from various perspectives. Sometimes the stories contradict one another. Sometimes they reinforce one another. Sometimes they describe bossa nova as an artistic practice. Other times they describe bossa nova as a labor practice. They all, however, help depict bossa nova in the United States as a heterogeneous style of music.

[10] Bossa nova in Brazil was equally diverse. And why shouldn’t it have been? Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade, writing as early as 1928, recognized the propensity for Brazilian society to “cannibalize” other cultures. His writing on the topic, Manifesto Antropófago, influenced several artists during the 1960s, including poet Augusto de Campos, visual artist Hélio Oiticica, and musician Caetano Veloso. Together, these artists created a movement known as tropicália. Musicians affiliated with this movement, like Veloso, explicitly and deliberately “cannibalized” everything from indigenous Brazilian music, to the music of the Brazilian Northeast, to Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles.          Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, bossa nova musicians in Brazil relied on a similar approach. Musicians like João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim comprised the linha formalística (formal or original line) of bossa nova whose music and lyrics depicted impressionistic and introspective themes. During the mid-1960s, particularly in the aftermath of the military coup of 1964, musicians like Nara Leão helped usher in a linha conteudística (content line) that spotlighted socio-economic issues, oftentimes, in a precursor to tropicália, taking influence from rock and roll and Brazil’s Northeast. Some musicians, like those who performed in groups like the Zimbo Trio and Tamba Trio, created instrumental bossa nova recordings, merging the sounds of samba with the improvisatory idioms of jazz. Bossa nova in the United States similarly sounded varied.

[11] Brazilian musicians often felt that their musical innovations had been coopted, commercialized, bastardized, and stolen by Americans. During the early twentieth century, American musicians and sheet music publishers stripped the maxixe, a Brazilian style of music, of its Afro-diasporic and Brazilian affiliations. Instead, they discussed the style as akin to tango or to French music.          Carmen Miranda, the famous Brazilian singer and actress of the 1930s and 1940s, suffered a similar fate. Americans often misunderstood Miranda, sexualizing her as a foreign Other or mistaking her Brazilian culture for the culture of Argentina, Venezuela, or Peru.          Brazilians during the 1960s worried bossa nova would be similarly misunderstood. As early as November 1962, Enrique Lebendiger, head of the Brazilian music publishing company Fermata, warned that the amount of bossa nova recorded in the United States would “destroy its original sound and meaning.”          His fears turned out to be correct. Sometimes, such cooptation occurred when English renditions of bossa nova songs stripped the music’s Portuguese lyrical content from its melodic and harmonic content. These new versions simply did not accurately capture the clever interplay between lyrics and music that Brazilian composers and lyricists imbued in their music.          In another example of cooptation, the American dance industry created, out of thin air, a bossa nova dance craze to sell records and lessons.          In another example of such cooptation, DownBeat published several “real histories” of bossa nova during the early 1960s. Some of these histories unconscionably traced the music’s origins to the efforts of bassist Harry Babasin in Los Angeles during the early 1950s.          In response, several Brazilians sent letters to the editor explaining how disappointed they were in how DownBeat essentially called bossa nova American-born music.          I take Lebendiger’s criticisms seriously and do not wish to repeat DownBeat’s errors.          However, a history of bossa nova within the United States shows the complicated process by which musicians, marketers, and audiences understood a foreign product. This is not a history about an ersatz bossa nova or even a comparative study between bossa nova within the United States and Brazil. Rather, this project explores the messy (and perhaps in the eyes of someone like Lebendiger, destructive) ways that Americans understood the genre during the 1960s.

[12] This is also a history of musical cream cheese. Let me explain. During the 1960s, several musicians dismissed bossa nova for its perceived commercialization. Cannonball Adderley, for instance, wrote an early bossa nova called “Jive Samba” that he subsequently released on his live album, Jazz Workshop Revisited, recorded in September 1962. However, a couple of months later, while on residency at the jazz club Birdland in New York City, he told a New York Amsterdam News reporter that he would not be performing any bossa nova during his sets. "It's too easy to play, too simple," remarked Adderley, “that's why everybody's jumping on the bandwagon. We can play bossa nova to any popular song, and have done it at request, but we don't think anything of it."          Leonard Feather’s famous “Blindfold Tests” in DownBeat consistently offered a forum where musicians lamented the commercialism of bossa nova. After listening to Lalo Schifrin’s rendition of “Desafinado” on Lalo = Brilliance, singer Mel Tormé commented that “the only thing that scares me, Leonard, is that something new like [the bossa nova] comes out, and, immediately, everybody jumps onto the bandwagon and they drive it into the ground."          Pianist Vince Guaraldi made a similar comment in response to Cal Tjader’s rendition of “O barquinho” from Soña Libre. “Most of this Brazilian material is getting done to the bone,” Guaraldi lamented.          Finally, pianist Hampton Hawes offered the most scathing critique of bossa nova’s commercial appeal after hearing Cannonball Adderley’s “Mystified” off the album Domination. Despite Adderley’s promise to not play bossa nova while at Birdland, he recorded a fair amount of bossa nova. He not only wrote “Jive Samba,” but, in December 1962, also was one of the first musicians to record a bossa nova album with other Brazilian collaborators. Largely thanks to the contributions of a strong rhythm section consisting of pianist Sérgio Mendes, bassist Octavio Bailly, Jr., and drummer Dom Um Romão, the press responded positively to the result, which Adderley released as Cannonball’s Bossa Nova in early 1963. However, Hawes levied strong criticisms against one of Adderley’s later albums, Domination, released two years later. “I’m not familiar with that tune,” Hawes said about one of the tracks from the album, “Mystified.” Hawes then speculated on how the song and album were conceived: “probably some fool at a recording company got a bunch of people together and said, ‘let’s make a bossa nova album and maybe it’ll turn out good.’” The pianist continued: “[it] seemed like it was a recording made to sell records instead of to expose good music."          Even amongst musicians who frequently recorded bossa nova, the genre’s commercial appeal found itself the object of scorn and criticism.

[13] Some writers, like Leonard Feather, tried to counter such critiques. In a defense of bossa nova’s commercial tendencies from 1963, critic Leonard Feather stated, “I don't think there is anyone in jazz who hasn't tried in one way or another to commercialize on something.” He went on to ask, “what were Duke Ellington's motives, do you think, when he recorded ‘Twelfth Street Rag Mambo’ or ‘Isle of Capri Mambo,’ or, more recently, ‘Asphalt Jungle Twist?’ Does this render Ellington any less valuable to the community?"          Feather had a point, with the answer to his question being a resounding “no.” Musicians rarely disregard commercial concerns. Dizzy Gillespie, one of the founders of be-bop, a genre previously understood to be the quintessential example of anti-commercial music, aspired to succeed financially.          Similarly, several first-wave British punk bands were, somewhat ironically, signed to major record labels during the 1970s. Only by the end of the decade did the genre’s anti-corporate ideology take hold.


[13] However, several of Feather’s colleagues did not share his view. After a rather dismal debut of several Brazilian artists at Carnegie Hall on November 21, 1962, a Pittsburgh Courier columnist shared their thoughts. Most critics panned the performance due to poor acoustics and a bloated program that lasted close to three and a half hours. However, reporter Nathan Weinberg wrote that he was “irked to see a number of first-rate musicians from the Southern hemisphere and of diverse personality and style pound themselves into one standard mold for the greater glory of A&R men and record pluggers.” Weinberg’s criticisms of the concert continued: “the real issue is less one of success or failure for [bossa nova]. It is the question of whether an audience can be delivered like a package of cream cheese, or whether a style of music can be organized as one would a factory, and whether musical artists and their imaginations can be made into standard parts."          To Weinberg, the issues at Carnegie Hall had less to do with microphone placement. Instead, he felt the featured a homogenized repertoire, program, and product that the concert’s organizers manufactured for mass consumers.

[14] Comparisons between record labels and industrial factories were not unique to bossa nova. Several historians have noted how Barry Gordy, Jr., founder of Detroit’s Motown Records wanted the label to operate like the assembly line of one of the many auto plants that populated Detroit. The result created a centralized record label that turned itself into what commentators called a “hit factory” and adopted the principles of vertical integration that relied on in-house studio musicians like the Funk Brothers. While the organizational structure of Motown led to the exploitation of musicians, descriptions of Motown music as factory-produced generally conjure up positive connotations. The label churned out acts like The Temptations and The Supremes that represented uniformity, cleanliness, reliability, and innovation – descriptions equally applicable to the American-made cars cranked out of the Ford Wayne Assembly Plant where Gordy briefly worked.          However, Weinberg meant for his words to disparage the performance. The recording industry’s efforts to mass produce bossa nova churned out “cream cheese” – connotations that conjure up The Jungle-like images of the turn-of-the-century meatpacking industry. Little wonder, then, that bandleader Russ Morgan commented that “bossa nova can make me ill.”

[15] However, as Nathan Weinberg may have known, cream cheese companies were producing various flavors during the 1960s. Borden – the famous producer of condensed milk and ice cream – offered Americans cream cheese with chives and cream cheese with pimento. Americans could buy cream cheese with dates and nuts or cream cheese with relish. Borden even made cream cheese with clam and lobster. Sure, on the one hand, bossa nova resembled a factory-made product in the sense that it was seemingly everywhere and packaged and repackaged ad nauseum. Bossa nova albums were “pouring in through windows and the cracks in the floor,” one columnist pointed out as early as winter 1962.          Critic John S. Wilson even noted that Lalo Schifrin’s album from 1964, Gone with the Wind, “ground out” tracks recorded in a bossa nova style like “neatly packaged sausages."          Yet, on the other hand, bossa nova – like Borden’s cream cheeses – had different flavors. It was a “house of many rooms,” as Gene Lees wrote, describing the various bossa nova records available to consumers in the mid-1960s.          It could appeal to everyone. Just change a little ingredient. Add a little pimento here. A little relish there.

[16] That a wildly commercially successful music like bossa nova appealed to everyone for different reasons should come as no surprise. Mass media never, despite the claims of its most ardent opponents, created a homogenized populace. During the 1920s and 1930s, for instance, drivers of mass culture, such as chain-stores, the radio, and the phonograph, did not unify all Americans into a classless society that listened to the same music, watched the same films, and ate the same food. Rather, the ethnically diverse working class in Chicago and Los Angeles, for instance, still frequented their local grocery stores, listened to Italian records, read Spanish-language newspapers, and listened to their favorite Mexican and Mexican American disc jockeys on the radio.          During the 1950s, a counterculture existed beneath an allegedly prosperous and homogenous postwar society.          Pundits in the 1960s writing in magazines like Sales Management believed that targeting black customers would de-emphasize race consciousness and difference. However, advertisers nevertheless created a “soul market” that adapted to African American consumers’ political and cultural orientations.

[17] Bossa nova musicians and marketers embraced a similar type of diversity. Bossa nova recorded and listened to in the United States did not adopt a “once size fits all” approach. Its foreignness, in part, made it a tabula rasa onto which musicians and audiences could project all sorts of ideas and fantasies.          On the one hand, records like ¡Amor! The Fabulous Guitar of Luiz Bonfá feature mellow, mellifluous, acoustic music. It served as perfect background music for a sophisticated suburban dinner party. Other records like The Piltdown Men’s “Tequila Bossa Nova” feature the sounds of electric guitars, harder-hitting drums, and a soulful organ. It appealed to the musical interests of American teenagers. Bossa nova during the 1960s was music for adults and music for youth. It was music listened to by black Americans and by white Americans. It was music listened to within the suburban homes of middle-class Americans and within the juke joints and music venues of America’s working-class metropolitan cities. It was carefree music that also contained sophisticated harmonies. It was championed by members of Brazil’s political right while also adopted by civil rights organizers wishing to program African-diasporic music at their benefit concerts. It was recorded in Brazil by original bossa nova musicians like João Gilberto. It was recorded by Brazilian musicians in New York. It found its way into cool jazz, in big band, in hastily conceived pop albums, and soul and funk. It was all these things simultaneously. It was musical cream cheese. The chapters that follow detail its many flavors.

Charles A. Perrone, Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: MPB 1965-1985 (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1989).

Micol Seigel, “The Disappearing Dance: Maxixe’s Imperial Erasure,” Black Music Research Journal 25, no. 1/2 (Spring-Fall 2005): 93–117.

Kathryn Bishop-Sanchez, Creating Carmen Miranda: Race, Camp, and Transnational Stardom (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2016); Walter Aaron Clark, “Doing the Samba on Sunset Boulevard: Carmen Miranda and the Hollywoodization of Latin American Music,” in The Tide Was Always High: The Music of Latin America in Los Angeles, ed. Josh Kun (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2017): 84-104.

“Tip From Bossa Nova Publisher: Don’t Dilute It,” Cash Box, November 3, 1962, 28.

David Treece, “Between Bossa Nova and the Mambo Kings: The Internationalization of Latin American Popular Music,” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia 1, no. 2 (1992): 54–85.

K.E. Goldschmitt, “Doing the Bossa Nova: The Curious Life of a Social Dance in 1960s North America,” Luso-Brazilian Review 48, no. 1 (2011): 61–78.

“The Real Story of Bossa Nova,” DownBeat, November 8, 1962, 21–22; S. Rosentwig McSiegel, “The Really Real Story of The Origins of Bossa Nova or They Stole My Music,” DownBeat, May 9, 1963, 20.

João A. de C. Silva, “McSiegel False Claimant!,” DownBeat, June 20, 1963, 10; “Bossa Nova Banter, Part II,” DownBeat, December 20, 1962, 6–8.

Such misunderstandings of bossa nova continue today. In Lebanon, audience members attending Brazilian cultural events in the country expected musicians to play Cuban music or dance salsa, much to the reluctance of the musicians, singers, and dancers of bands like Xangô, who prefer to play bossa nova and samba. See Gabrielle Messeder, “Tropical(Ist) Fantasies: Bossa Nova and Samba in Contemporary Lebanon,” Revista Vórtex 6, no. 3 (2018): 1–25.

K.E. Goldschmitt studies the multiple meanings of Brazilian music as it traverses transnational media industries. Ary Barroso’s “Aquerela do Brasil,” for instance, represented Brazilian nationalism during the 1930s, then tropical fantasies in Disney Studio’s Saludos Amigos film during the 1940s, to dystopian associations in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film, Brazil. See Goldschmitt, “From Disney to Dystopia: Transforming ‘Brazil’ for a US Audience,” in The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 363–74.

Guaraldi quoted in Leonard Feather, “Blindfold Test: Vince Guaraldi,” DownBeat, March 25, 1965, 28.

Hawes quoted in Leonard Feather, “Blindfold Test: Hampton Hawes,” DownBeat, October 7, 1965, 36.

Leonard Feather, “Feather’s Nest,” DownBeat, February 28, 1963, 39.

Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999).

Jay Beck, “‘Search and Destroy:’ Punk in Advertising and Selling a Subculture,” in The Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising, ed. James Deaville, Siu-Lan Tan, and Ron Rodman (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021), 452–73. Lauren Westrup similarly argues that “the underground isn’t as underground as it used to be” in discussions of Geffen Records’ marketing of Nirvana. See “About a B(r)and: Geffen Records, Universal, and the (Posthumous) Packaging of Nirvana,” in The Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising, ed. James Deaville, Siu-Lan Tan, and Ron Rodman (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021), 265–84.

Nathan Weinberg, “Bossa Nova Flops at Carnegie Hall,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 1, 1962, 22.

Suzanne E. Smith, Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999); Andrew Flory, I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2017).

Morgan quoted in “Bands --Dip into Nostalgia,” Billboard, September 14, 1968, 64.

John S. Wilson, “Zoot Sims – New Beat Bossa Nova,” DownBeat, December 6, 1962, 32.

John S. Wilson, “Lalo Schifrin – Gone with The Wave,” DownBeat, November 4, 1965.

Gene Lees, “Entertainment (Pops/Jazz/Films/Theater/Folk/Spoken Word); Roberto Menescal: The Boy from Ipanema,” HI-Fi/Stereo Review, April 1965, 102–3.

George Sanchez, “Familiar Sounds of Change: Music and the Growth of Mass Culture,” in Consumer Society in American History: A Reader, ed. Lawrence B. Glickman (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 170–89; Lizabeth Cohen, “Encountering Mass Culture at the Grassroots: The Experience of Chicago Workers in the 1920s,” in Consumer Society in American History: A Reader, ed. Lawrence B. Glickman (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 147–69.

Jackson Lears, “A Matter of Taste: Corporate Cultural Hegemony in a Mass-Consumption Society,” in Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cold War, ed. Lary May (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 38–60.

Robert E. Weems, “The Revolution Will Be Marketed: American Corporations and Black Consumers During the 1960s,” in Consumer Society in American History: A Reader, ed. Lawrence B. Glickman (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 316–25.

Carl Wilson makes this argument about Celine Dion’s appeal in Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014). Samuel Barrett makes a similar argument in “‘Kind of Blues’ and the Economy of Modal Jazz,” Popular Music 25, no. 2 (May 2006): 185–200, focusing on how the modal elements of Davis’ famous album, Kind of Blue, make it a blank slate that appeals to various (white) consumers interested in the universality of jazz. 

Adderley quoted in Jesse H. Walker, “Theatricals,” New York Amsterdam News, December 1, 1962, 17

Tormé quoted in Leonard Feather, “Blindfold Test: Mel Tormé,” DownBeat, January 3, 1963, 33–34.

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