Note from BW of Brazil: Among other hobbies of mine, crate digging for old music albums is one of my favorite pastimes. And needless to say, Brazilian music is a treasure chest of great music for almost any fan of Popular or Classical Music. For a few decades now I have always enjoyed visiting various cities across the countries and going to ‘sebos’, stores that sell old/vintage/used books and albums. In these stores, I’ve been able to rack up quite a collection of great vinyl albums, paperback and hardcover books that are sometimes hard if not impossible to find in newer re-issues. And while I LOVE vintage 1970s Samba, Samba-Rock and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music), I take note of all sorts of artists and albums that I save in my mind’s ‘vault’ even if I don’t care for the music.
One of the artists that I constantly come across in my crate digging ventures is singer Carmen Silva, who I just discovered died yesterday at the age of 71. Silva’s music never appealed to me as I just don’t have a taste for syrupy, heavily string laden romantic or sertaneja music. But hey, that’s me. We all have our own tastes and there are plenty of Brazilians who adore Silva’s style of music. But even though Silva’s music never grabbed me, one thing I liked about coming across her albums in album bins over the years was her album covers! Looking at Carmen Silva’s album covers is like taking a journey into the past of black women’s hairstyles! Of course, there are many artists out there who you could do this with, but I used to love looking at Carmen’s album covers and knowing immediately from her hairstyles (which included afros, braids, straight, weaves/megahair) what era the album was released in.
In the report below, we bring you a quick background of Carmen’s career (including an intriguing detail that has long plagued the careers of numerous black Brazilian female singers) up to the sad news of her recent passing as well as a few of her album covers careers spanning almost four decades of her career.
Singer Carmen Silva dies at age 71 of cardiac arrest
Artist was a hit in 1969 with the hit “Adeus, solidão” and, in 2000, launched her evangelical career. Recently she had distanced herself from music.
By Anderson Dezan and Lucinei Acosta with information from UOL and WIkipedia
Sad news for the world of music. Carmen Silva, known affectionately to fans as the Pérola Negra (Black Pearl), died in early Monday morning (26th) in São Paulo, at age 71. According to Hospital Presidente, she had been interned there since the 14th, and her death was due to cardiac arrest caused by thromboembolism.
The granddaughter of slaves from the city of Veríssimo, a city of the Triângulo Mineiro region of Minas Gerais, Carmen Sebastiana de Jesus (her birth name) worked in her youth as a babá (nanny) and empregada doméstica (maid), but she learned to sing by listening to the radio in the homes of her bosses and had a dream of becoming a singer. Determined with this goal, she began to participate in talent shows.
CD of Carmen Silva’s hits
At the end of the 60s, in her attempts, because of the visibility she garnered after winning the Um Cantor por um Milhão, um Milhão por uma Canção contest, she was invited to record her first single, “Adeus, solidão” that she would release with success in Brazil in 1969. The song was a version of Newton Miranda’s for “Picking up Pebbles” by Johnny Curtis. It was her first hit on for the Philips label.
Her first album was released in 1971. Two years later the album A Pérola Negra was released with the iconic image of her face on the cover. The album earned “cult” status and rendered her the nickname she would keep until her death. She won several awards and trophies, such as the Roquette Pinto and the Chico Viola.
Early in her career she was under pressure from the music industry to record sambas, a rhythm of which didn’t identify with, and even finding success singing them, she didn’t want to be stigmatized (1), since she preferred romantic interpretations, which created controversy among many critics. Her main successes were: “Adeus Solidão”, “Fofurinha”, “O Destino Nos Separou”, “Sapequinha”, “Espinho na Cama”, “Fotografia”, “Amor com Amor se Paga”, “Ser tua Namorada” and “Segura na Mão de Deus”
In the 90s, her career began to decline and, as a result, she began to face bouts of depression. During this period, she traveled to the United States to visit her only daughter, Karla, who attended evangelical cults. There, Carmen converted to the religion.
In 2001, she started a gospel career by signing with the label Graça Music. She released three CDs for the label, the first of which sold over 100,000 copies, guaranteeing the artist a Disco de Ouro (gold record). In 2004, she decided not to renew her contract with the label and her last album released was Minhas Canções na Voz de Carmen Silva (My Songs in Carmen Silva’s Voice) in 2008, whose compositions were by R. R. Soares in partnership with Carlinhos GerD, singer of GerD. She would then begin to devote herself to personal matters, leaving behind her career as a singer.
Carmen Silva released over 20 albums and participated in more than 25 collections.
- This is a sort of unspoken rule within Brazilian Popular Music circles. If a black Brazilian woman shows a talent for singing, industry insiders almost automatically want to push the artist into the category of ‘sambista’, a singer/musician who sings/plays primarily Samba. This pigeon-holing of black female singers was discussed in previous posts “The meaning of Whitney Houston and the obstruction of a black female pop superstar in Brazil”, “In a career spanning over 50 years, Alaíde Costa overcame a prejudiced music industry that only wanted black women to sing Samba”, the would be “Brazilian Whitney Houston” and “The continuous white appropriation of northeastern Afro-Brazilian Axé music”. With this in mind, it’s essential that artists such as Carmen Silva are allowed to record the type of music that they want to sing rather than how record execs want them to sing in order to typecast them.