Bossa Nova Pioneer João Gilberto Dead at 88

(Image credit: ARI VERSIANI/AFP/Getty Images)

João Gilberto, the legendary Brazilian guitarist, singer and songwriter, has died at the age of 88. The musician is considered one of the pioneers of bossa nova—a fusion of samba and jazz—helping to popularize the music in his native Brazil in the Fifties and Sixties as well as export it to the world at large.

Over the years Gilberto worked with artists ranging from Herbie Mann to Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. But he will likely be most remembered for his 1964 collaboration with American saxophonist Stan Getz, Getz/Gilberto, which featured their version of Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema.” 

Fueled by Gilberto’s uniquely syncopated, fingerpicked acoustic guitar rhythms (Gilberto's then-wife, Astrud Gilberto, provided the vocals on the English version), the song was a massive hit and helped to make bossa nova a worldwide phenomenon. Getz/Gilberto remains one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, and also nabbed several Grammy awards, including Album of the Year in 1965.

Gilberto continued to perform and record—the latter, sporadically—through the decades, in the process becoming a hero to a new generation of Brazilian artists including Caetano Veloso, who produced his final studio album, 2000’s João Voz e Violão. His most recent release was 2004’s In Tokyo, which captured the guitarist performing solo onstage in 2003.