The influential ‘bossa nova’ jazz musician João Gilberto has died

The ‘father of bossa nova’ died at his home in Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian music legend João Gilberto, who was seen as a pioneer of the ‘bossa nova’ genre, has died aged 88.

With classic tracks like ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, Gilberto led the bossa nova movement through his fusion of samba and jazz.

In an emotional Facebook post, his son Marcelo confirmed the singer had passed away after a period of illness, writing: “His fight was noble, he tried to maintain dignity in light of losing his sovereignty.”

Gilberto, who was born in the north-east state of Bahia in 1931, learned to play the guitar at age 14 before going onto release landmark 1959 album Chega de Saudade, which has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. A popular legend in Brazil suggests Gilberto was even committed to a mental home in the 1950s by his own father, apparently upset by his son’s unconventional singing style and refusal to get a real job.

One of his most successful projects was a 1964 collaborative album, Getz/Gilberto, created with American saxophone player Stan Getz. The album sold over two million copies worldwide and lead single ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ was a massive hit. Gilberto’s wife Astrud Gilberto made her vocal debut on the track, which has even been covered by Amy Winehouse.

Over the course of his career Gilberto won two Grammy awards and was nominated for a further six. In 2009, US jazz magazine DownBeat named him one of the 75 greatest guitarists and one of the top five jazz singers.

Singer Daniela Mercury called Gilberto a “genius who revolutionised popular Brazilian music. He taught us how to sing in the most beautiful way in the world.”

“It was João Gilberto, the greatest genius of Brazilian music, who was the definitive influence on my music,” added singer Gal Costa in response to Gilberto’s death. “He will be missed but his legacy is very important to Brazil and to the world.”

The singer’s influence on South American country’s music scene was also described as “incalculable” by Brazilian music journalist Bernardo Arauio, who told the AFP news agency: “João Gilberto was the principal voice of the best known Brazilian style in the world and a revolutionary without even really meaning to be.”

João Gilberto’s last live performances were in 2008 and he is survived by three children.