Note from BBT: In previous posts, I’ve gone into how it’s been a difficult month of May for 2020. In reality, I’ll just say that the bad news seemed to happen within a period of about a week, but really just a few days, between May 6th and May 9th. The biggest news was the police operation that took the lives of nearly 30 people in a favela in Rio.
The other two pieces news concerned two important Afro-Brazilian musicians, Cassiano and Luis Vagner. The two passed away within days of each other, the former on May 7th, the latter on May 9th. I had just done a piece on Cassiano back in February and learned that he had been interned in hospital for a few weeks. Hearing the news that he had been admitted into the hospital some time in April, I didn’t immediately know what health issues he may have had.
It wasn’t until Saturday morning when I was looking at my blog stats that I noted my article on Cassiano was the most read of the day. I thought to myself, ‘why are people so suddenly interested in Cassiano?’. Then it hit me. Just the previous week, I had learned of the death of popular actor Paulo Gustavo in the same manner after internet searches made an article featuring Gustavo the most read piece on the blog for the day.
It was only after his death was announced that I learned that Covid-19 had claimed yet another life. Two days after hearing of Cassiano’s passing, I started seeing articles on singer/guitarist Luis Vagner appear online. As I often come across articles that discuss the importance and career highlights of numerous Afro-Brazilian figures who never got their just due, I just thought that these articles were paying tribute to him. As it turns out, they were, but because he too had passed away.
In the February piece on Cassiano, I discussed my introduction to his music, so now I want to focus a little on Luis Vagner. As I often say, once I got past my initial introduction to Brazil’s most popular singers and musicians, I wanted to go a little deeper. I don’t exactly remember when I learned of Vagner, but it was perhaps also via the great Chicago record store, Dusty Groove.
Some time in the first decade of the 2000s, a mountain of Brazilian vinyl LPs were being re-issued on CD. Dusty groove specializing in world music always gives very good descriptions of each album and CD that it sells. Based on its description of the 1974 Vagner LP Simples, I knew I would need to add this one to my growing collection of Brazilian music.
I was not disappointed. As I would go on to find more of Vagner’s LPs in some of Brazil’s sebos, or used book/album stores, I can say that Simples has to be Vagner’s best album. The album has a little of everything. The popular samba-rock sound that he is credited with co-creating, ballads, mid to up-tempo popular rhythms laced with horns and strings that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on American Pop/R&B radio stations of the 1970s.
When I think of the sample-laden era of American Hip-Hop from the early 90s to maybe the first decade of the 2000s, this album’s sample potential is a gold mine. In fact, at first listen, one of the songs on this album made me think that one of Hip Hop’s most important producers had been digging into Brazilian music crates.
Listening to the intro of the Vagner track ‘’Nas “Planices” Muitas Luas De Paz’’, I wondered, ‘how did Dr. Dre know about Luis Vagner?’. This intro is the exact same main rhythm section that Dre used for the famous Tupac Shakur collaboration ‘’California Love’’. Then, later, I would learn that it was probably more likely that Vagner borrowed this riff from the 1972 track ‘’Woman To Woman’’ by American singer Joe Cocker of which ‘’California’’ was credited.
Three other intriguing things about Vagner’s music that I discovered are, one, another black Brazilian singer from the 1970s, Socrates, released an album in which he covered not one, not two, but eight of the songs from the Vagner Simples LP. Was’sup wit’ dat? Two, on his 1979 LP Fusão das Raças, Vagner covers the Tom Jobim classic ‘’Garota De Ipanema’’ (Girl From Ipanema) but in a style that is much closer to ‘70s R&B production standards than its origins in the Bossa Nova genre. I don’t remember where I read this, but apparently the Vagner version was highly criticized by Brazilian cultural critics at the time because of its adaptation of an American style.
From the 1950s to the 1970s in Brazil, criticisms of American influences on Brazilian art forms were very common, be they against the electrification of Brazilian music influenced by American and British Rock, the mixing of R&B/Funk elements in Samba or non-Brazilian elements in several other genres. It’s funny to me because Bossa Nova itself was a mixture of Samba and Jazz and the samba itself was once upon a time also rejected by Brazilian elites as a ‘’coisa do negro’’, or a ‘black thing’.
The third thing is that it is well-known that Jorge Ben, one of Brazilian music’s most celebrated artists, played only acoustic guitar in his career between 1963 to 1976, when he switched to electric guitar for his groundbreaking masterpiece of samba-rock-soul-funk, África-Brasil. According to several sources, Ben made the switch from acoustic to electric because of the influence of Luiz Vagner, which led to the Ben tribute track ‘’Luiz Vagner Guitarreiro’’, meaning ‘Luis Vagner Guitar Hero’, which appeared on Ben’s 1981 album Bem-Vinda Amizade.
Vagner comes from an era of a handful of black artists from the state of Rio Grande do Sul that mixed elements of groove and R&B with traditional Samba, most of whom never earned widespread popularity but made some great music in the 1970s and 1980s.
Besides Brazilian rhythms, in the 1980s, Vagner would also venture into the world of Reggae. With this in mind, how coincidental is it that Vagner passed away two days before the internet began to remember the 40th anniversary of Reggae’s greatest representative, Bob Marley? Vagner also shared the same birthday as American R&B singer Luther Vandross, April 20th.
Below is a little more about the great guitarist as well as recognition of the death of Cassiano.
National reference, guitarist Luis Vagner dies in São Paulo
Musician was one of the main names of reggae and samba-rock in Brazil
By Marcelo Gonzatto
The great Jorge Ben Jor composed a song in honor of the guitarist
One of the most talented musicians out of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, who ventured through different styles such as jovem guarda, reggae and samba-rock, guitarist Luis Vagner died on Sunday, May 9, at the age of 73, from health complications while recovering from a stroke on the coast of São Paulo.
Vagner was internationally recognized for the swing with which he played the instrument and as being one of the references of the style that combines samba and rock – credentials that earned him a tribute song composed by samba-rock legend, Jorge Ben, in which he sings “play, Luis Vagner, guitarist, my friend”.
‘’Jorge started playing the guitar after he saw Luis Vagner playing. His career saw him venture into styles such as jovem guarda, reggae, samba, and samba-rock, of which is considered a founder in Brazil. He played with many people such as Jorge Ben himself.’’
Jovem Guarda is a genre and era in which Brazilian artists either covered or played their own compositions in the style of late 1950s American Rock n’ Roll and that of British Rock bands of the 1960s. Vagner experimented went numerous Brazilian rhythms. “It’s a very big loss,” says friend and producer Claudiomar Carrasco Martins.
The Municipal Secretariat of Culture of São Paulo issued a note on social networks. “His versatility on the guitar was impressive and he mixed with power the jongo, samba partido, maracatu, calango, funk, rock, and baião. The energy of his presentations was also very impressive.’’
Born in the city of Bagé, he passed through other cities until he arrived in Porto Alegre, the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul, where he lived in Cidade Baixa. At the time of his death, he lived in Itanhaém, on the coast of São Paulo state. Still young, he formed bands like Os Jetsons and Os Brasas, which were among the Jovem Guarda’s bases. With Brasas, he moved to the center of the country and served as a support musician for artists like Wanderley Cardoso.
Acting as a studio or guest musician, he participated in the recording of dozens of albums and accompanied artists from the carat of Tim Maia, in addition to releasing his own albums such as Simples, Guitarreiro and Fusão das Raças. Together with Gilberto Gil, according to the Cravo Albin Dictionary of Popular Brazilian Music, “he is considered one of the precursors of Reggae in Brazil, a musical style that he would develop throughout his career”.
“In the 1990s, the band that accompanied Bob Marley went to see his show,” says the producer.
According to Carrasco, Vagner’s first album should be released on vinyl soon, as well as two other unreleased albums. Carrasco says that the musician from Rio Grande do Sul leaves two children who live in Porto Alegre, one in Argentina and four in São Paulo, in addition to grandchildren.
There was still no detailed information about the funeral ceremonies. According to the former producer, Luis Vagner was a Buddhist.
Singer and songwriter Cassiano dies at 77
Author of the hits “Primavera” and “Eu Amo Você” was considered one of the precursors of Brazilian soul
- Singer and songwriter Cassiano dies at 77; he was hospitalized in Rio
- He was a partner of the Brazilian Soul great Tim Maia
- Cassiano was the composer of one of Maia’s biggest hits, “Primavera” author
- Cassiano was born in Campina Grande, Paraíba, in 1943.
Courtesy of POWER360
The singer and composer Genival Cassiano dos Santos, 77 years old, died on Friday, May 7, in Rio de Janeiro. A victim of covid-19, he had been hospitalized since the end of April, at Hospital Estadual Carlos Chagas, in Marechal Hermes, in the city’s West Zone. The hospital released a note informing of his death at 4:30 pm.
The native of Paraíba state moved to Rio in the 1960s. One of his main compositions “Primavera” was recorded in 1970, by singer Tim Maia. Over the years, Cassiano left his mark on Brazilian music with several other hits, such as “A Lua e Eu” and “Coleção”.
In addition to Maia, he also composed songs sung by other artists, such as Marisa Monte, Sandra de Sá, Ivete Sangalo.
On Twitter, rapper Emicida was one of the artists who expressed solidarity with Cassiano’s death. “May the angels be an audience at your height”, wrote the musician.
Remember a performance by Tim Maia below, singing “Primavera”
On Friday (May 7), singer and composer Cassiano died at the age of 77, a victim of covid-19. He had been hospitalized in Rio since the end of April, at Hospital Estadual Carlos Chagas, in Marechal Hermes, in the city’s West Zone. The hospital released a note informing of his death at 4:30 pm.
The musician was taken to an emergency care unit in Copacabana after suffering a cardiac arrest. The composer was in a serious condition at Hospital Estadual Carlos Chaga, intubated and in an induced coma. With difficulties in obtaining a spot in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Rio de Janeiro, Cassiano needed help from Mayor Eduardo Paes to be transferred to the hospital.
He also had songs recorded by artists such as Marisa Monte and Djavan. Alcione sang ”Mister Samba” and Gilberto Gil, ”Morena”.
Cassiano began his career at 21, as a guitarist in the Bossa Trio, a group that gave origin to the band Os Diagonais, initially formed by him, his brother Camarão and Amaro, in the 1960s.
In 1970, the composer became nationally known when he participated as guitarist in Tim Maia’s debut album. On that album, Maia recorded two compositions by Cassiano: “Eu amo você” and “Primavera (vai chuva)”.
As a soloist, the singer had two songs as themes for soap operas on the Rede Globo television network. In 1976, “A lua e eu”, the greatest success of Cassiano’s career, was the theme song for O Grito, and in 1977 “Coleção” was included in the soundtrack of Locomotivas.
In the following year, 1978, the composer had to have a lung removed due to tuberculosis. With this, her was orced to abandon his singing career, he continued as a musician and composer. His discography includes two albums with the group Os Diagonais, four solo albums, and three greatest hits compilations.