Marcos Valle has a way with a melody, whether he's singing in Portuguese or English or simply playing the piano. Three albums are perfect evidence of his poetic ability: Braziliance! (1967) Samba '68 (1968) and Viola Enluarada (1968). In each case, you hear how Marcos baits a melody line to seduce the listener. Even songs with titles such as Crickets Sing for Anamaria or Chup Chup, I Got Away remain in your head long after the songs have finished playing.
In Part 2 of my three-part interview with Marcos, the bossa nova singer-songwriter talks about a shift in Brazilian music in the mid-'60s, his two-year trip to America and his return to Rio:
JazzWax: Are you naturally optimistic?
Marcos Valle: Very, and I try to influence my sons Daniel [age19] and Tiago [age 17] to be the same way. But this does not mean that I’m blind to problems when they appear and try to help in some way. [Pictured from left: Sylvia Telles, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Roberto Menescal and Marcos Valle in 1964]
JW: What happened to Brazilian music in 1964?
MV: What do you mean?
JW: There seemed to be a darker feel for a time, a folk movement that paralleled the one in the U.S.
MV: After the military took over the government in 1964, many artists grew despondent. I had always thought in terms of melodies, harmonies and rhythms. But little by little, as the years wore on, I realized that we artists should do what we could to help hasten the return of democracy. Many artists met to discuss the situation. That’s when my brother and I started to write songs in a different way. [Pictured: Military takeover of Brazil in 1964]
JW: What changed with the music?
MV: The melodies still had the same style but some of the lyrics were more socially directed. Much like your folk music in America from the same period. From that point on, my songs and my brother's lyrics faced many problems with censorship. We were asked many times by the government to make changes in phrases and, sometimes, entire lyrics.
JW: Why did you come to the U.S. in 1966?
MV: When Summer Samba became a hit in America, Ray Gilbert, who was managing, publishing and writing lyrics for Antonio Carlos Jobim, asked Jobim for an introduction. After Jobim introduced Ray to me, Gilbert became my manager, publisher and English lyric writer. He also arranged a contract for me to record an instrumental album in Brazil of my songs for Warner Brothers. It was Braziliance!.
JW: What else did Gilbert do?
MV: He booked me on a series of TV variety shows—including one hosted by Andy Williams, where Jobim had appeared. I also appeared on shows hosted by Merv Griffin and the Smothers Brothers. I remained in the U.S. for close to two years but I was homesick. So in 1968 I decided to return to Brazil, to be close to my family and friends.
JW: Were you nervous singing and playing with Andy Williams on TV in 1967?
MV: Oh yes. All those rehearsals, that beautiful studio, our conversation. It was amazing for me. But I loved how it came out. When I look at that show now, I am amazed at how good it is—the sound, the mixing, the production and the singing. Andy was very nice to me the entire time.
JW: Why did you try to hit Marlon Brando at a party in Hollywood?
MV: I had joined Sergio Mendes’ group for a year. While we were on tour in the U.S., I went to a party in 1966 where there were many important people from the music and movie business. There was a piano there along with a guitar, percussion instruments and microphones hanging from the ceiling. This allowed the sound of whoever was playing to be heard throughout the party. [Pictured: Marcos Valle, front left, with Sergio Mendes' Brasil '65]
JW: Who performed?
MV: Many artists played and sang that night informally, including Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel, Laurindo Almeida, Sergio Mendes, Petula Clark and me. The whole time Brando was playing the bongos. He never stopped. I remember he was rather heavy as well. [Pictured: Marcos Valle with Henry Mancini in 1967]
JW: What happened?
MV: I was there with my first wife, Anamaria, who was 18 years old at the time and very beautiful. She was a brunette, the kind I guess that Brando went for. I was 21 years old. That night Anamaria sang with me while I played. Brando must have been waiting for a chance to talk to her.
JW: Did he?
MV: When my wife and I decided to leave, the hosts were taking me to the door when Brando grabbed her arm. He said, “You are gorgeous, stay with me.” This made Anamaria really mad. She hated this kind of aggressive behavior by men, even Marlon Brando. Our host's friends could see what was stirring behind me and tried to patch it up so there wouldn’t be any trouble.
JW: What happened next?
MV: My wife came over to me and said, “Do you know what that son of a bitch just did?” When I heard, I headed in his direction to hit him. But the host and other people there stopped me, telling me he was drunk and to forget about it.
JW: Did you hit him?
MV: No. After calling him some bad names—probably in Portuguese, since I was so angry—the people there were able to take me and my wife outside and calm us down. The funny thing is that during all of this, Brando never stopped playing the bongos. Later, we laughed about that and commented that the worst thing about the party was having to listen to him play.
JW: What stopped you from staying in the U.S. longer, like Antonio Carlos Jobim did?
MV: I was very young. I was not prepared to be so far from my friends and family for so long. I was used to an easy way of life in Brazil. The rigidity of the professional music business in the U.S. was difficult to deal with. So, I decided to return to Brazil.
JW: There was something about the Vietnam War as well, yes?
MV: Since I was a registered U.S. resident for my tour with Sergio Mendes, I was told I had to enlist with the draft, which I did not know until 1967 when I appeared on TV shows. So I enlisted. But because I was Brazilian and had married in Brazil before the start of the Vietnam War, and because I had a small problem in my right eye, I didn't qualify for service. At the time I was recording Samba ‘68 for Verve.
JW: By the way, who was the female singer with you on Samba '68? What a gorgeous sound.
MV: Anamaria, my wife at the time who was grabbed by Brando.
JW: What did you do when you returned to Rio in 1968?
MV: I recorded a new album called Viola Enluarada. The title track became a big hit, and it is still one of my best-known songs.
JazzWax tracks: The instrumental album Braziliance! is not available as a download and seems to be unavailable as a CD. You'll find more information here. Samba '68 is a terrific album, with Marcos and his then wife Anamaria recording his compositions in English. It's available at iTunes and here. And Viola Enluarada is available here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Astrud Gilberto singing Marcos Valle's Chup Chup, I Got Away...
Here's Marcos Valle and his then wife Anamaria on Samba '68 singing The Crickets Sing for Anamaria...
Here's Marcos Valle singing Viola Enluarada...