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Carlos Lyra

One of the most important artists of the bossa nova scene, Carlos Lyra was also an intellectual behind the movement, forging new directions like the protest song. Lyra wrote some of the best moments of the bossa nova on his own or with illustrious partners like Vinícius de Moraes. With Roberto Menescal, Lyra created a guitar academy that became a meeting point for future artists Edu Lobo, Marcos Valle, Nara Leão, and Ronaldo Bôscoli. In 1954, Geraldo Vandré interpreted his song "Menina" at a festival; it was recorded the next year by Sílvia Telles. Three years later, Os Cariocas recorded his "Criticando." In 1959, João Gilberto included three of Lyra's compositions, "Maria Ninguém," "Lobo Bobo," and "Saudade Fez um Samba" (the latter two were written with Bôscoli) for Chega de Saudade -- a landmark album in the bossa genre. Lyra recorded his first solo album that year, Bossa Nova. Interested in a more active political militancy, Lyra wrote soundtracks for plays like Vianinha's A Mais-Valia Vai Acabar, Seu Edgar. That same year, Lyra met Vinícius de Moraes, with whom he would write bossa classics like "Você e Eu," "Minha Namorada," "Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas," and "Coisa Mais Linda." His social concerns took him to the CPC (Popular Center of Culture), where he would brew the protest song derived from the bossa nova, which he and other composers like Edu Lobo, Geraldo Vandré, and Chico Buarque saw as reactionary. The immediate result of his cultural activity was a partnership with Zé Kéti in the "Samba da Legalidade," influencing the formation of the historic Opinião show, which featured Nara Leão, Maria Bethânia, Zé Kéti, and João do Vale in a highly politicized text. In 1962, Lyra played at the Bossa Nova Festival in Carnegie Hall. The next year, Lyra wrote the soundtrack for the film Bonitinha Mas Ordinária, over text by Nelson Rodrigues. In 1964, he appeared at the Newport Festival with Stan Getz, and toured with him the following year through the U.S, Canada, Europe, and Japan. In 1965, he also recorded with Paul Winter. He spent several years in Mexico, where he worked intensively composing soundtracks for short subjects and plays. In 1983, he started his partnership with Paulo César Pinheiro. Four years later, he performed in Spain with Caetano Veloso, Toquinho, and Nana Caymmi. In 1988, he played in Japan with Leila Pinheiro and the Quarteto em Cy. In 1992, Lyra toured Spain and Portugal and performed at the Pescara Jazz Festival with Gerry Mulligan and Gary Burton. In 1997, Lyra opened the show 40 Years of Bossa Nova in Tokyo with Roberto Menescal, Leila Pinheiro, and Astrud Gilberto. Carlos Lyra died in Rio de Janeiro on December 16, 2023, at the age of 90.
© Alvaro Neder /TiVo

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