João Gilberto: Brazilian ‘father of bossa nova’ dies aged 88

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AFP

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The Grammy-award winning artist avoided the spotlight in recent years

Influential Brazilian musician João Gilberto has died aged 88.

The singer and composer was known best as a pioneer of the bossa nova genre, which found international popularity in the 1960s.

Reports say Gilberto died at home in Rio de Janeiro after a period of illness. His son confirmed the news of his death in a Saturday Facebook post.

“His fight was noble, he tried to maintain dignity,” Marcelo Gilberto said.

Born in the north-east state of Bahia in 1931, Gilberto began singing aged 18.

His release of the record Chega de Saudade in the late 1950s was considered a game-changer for Brazilian music.

Gilberto’s style – mixing traditional and modern musical influences – inspired bossa nova, or new trend, music and many other artists after him.

In 1964, he famously collaborated with America saxophone player Stan Getz. Their album sold millions of copies and won international praise, including a US Grammy for Album of the year.

A pioneer in his field

By Leonardo Rocha, BBC News Americas Editor

Joao Gilberto introduced bossa nova to the world in 1958: he created a new beat, with his unique guitar style, mixing traditional samba music with modern jazz influences.

His music depicted a period of huge optimism in Brazil: an urban, industrialised country that was building a new capital and dreaming of better

His versions of songs like Quiet Nights and The Girl from Ipanema became standards in world music.

For the past decade, Joao Gilberto lived alone in Rio, struggling with mental health and financial issues.

Bernardo Araujo, a music journalist for Brazilian newspaper Globo, told AFP news agency last year his influence was “incalculable”.

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Michael Ochs Archives via Getty

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Joao Gilberto (photo from around 1970)

“He was the principal voice of the best known Brazilian style in the world and a revolutionary without even really meaning to be,” Araujo said.

The influential musician had not been seen in public for several years.

The cause of his death has not yet been officially announced.