Who Is She? Just One Of The Most Popular Songs Ever | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Who Is She? Just One Of The Most Popular Songs Ever

Play associated audio

Amy Winehouse. Ella Fitzgerald. Sammy Davis Jr. The Yale Whiffenpoofs. Mike Tyson.

All of these artists — and non-artists — are members of a big club. They're among many who've crooned the second-most recorded pop song ever, according to a count by Performing Songwriter magazine.

That song is "The Girl From Ipanema." (The first is The Beatles' "Yesterday.")

Why?

"It is a seductive song," Thomas Vinciguerra, who wrote about the tune for The Wall Street Journal, tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "The sentiment is universal: unattainable beauty."

The song was born five decades ago in Brazil, Vinciguerra says, when Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes were stalled on a number for a musical called Blimp.

"They needed some sort of inspiration, so they went down to a bar in the Ipanema district of Rio," Vinciguerra says. "And according to myth, a lovely young woman passed by and inspired them to write a whole new song on cocktail napkins."

That woman is a real person: Helo Pinheiro, who is now 66.

Pinheiro didn't sing the tune, of course. That task fell to Astrud Gilberto, whose Portuguese husband, Joao Gilberto, also sings on the famous track, accompanied by Stan Getz on saxophone. She had never sung professionally before.

"It's her very lack of professionalism that makes the song so appealing," Vinciguerra says. "It sounds exotic — out of reach, like the girl herself."

To hear Vinciguerra's full conversation with Raz, as well as a diverse selection of "Ipanema" performances, click the audio link on this page.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Louis C.K. Reflects On 'Louie,' Loss, Love And Life

C.K. won an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series for an episode on his FX show Louie. In 2011, C.K. told Fresh Air about making his comedy special and his relationship with other comedians.
NPR

Diplomats And Lawyers Try To Define 'Culturally Acceptable Food'

Some governments recently said that agricultural investments should supply "culturally acceptable food." Now they're trying to define what that is.
NPR

Former Iowa Lawmaker Admits To Getting Payoff Before 2012 Caucuses

Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty in federal court to taking under-the-table payments when he switched sides between GOP presidential candidates. The former state senator previously denied the rumors.
NPR

Science Crowns Mozzarella The King Of Pizza Cheese

Why do some cheeses melt and caramelize better than others? Researchers used high-tech cameras and special software to figure it out.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.