A unique figure in the Brazilian musical sector, Juca Chaves built up his artistic persona after medieval themes. Considering himself a minstrel, he is also one of the very few contemporary artists to make the romantic modinha his principal element. And he used improbable (and delicate) elements as vehicles for his corrosive satiric humor, directed against politicians and high members of the government responsible for the economy, and against anyone who pleases him as well. A combative and independent character, he also fought for the numbering of records by record companies and founded his own independent label.
Taking up the guitar at seven, Chaves started to write poetry in the same period, penning the songs "Hino Para os Cachorros" and "Semente Bonitinha." He had intense musical training with teachers like Guerra-Peixe (harmony, counterpoint, and fugue), Oswaldo Lacerda (musical theory and solfeggio), Lurdinha Amaral (guitar and voice), Scupinari (classical guitar), Bernardo Federowsky (conducting), Nair Medeiros (piano), and Maynard Araújo (folklore), having founded with the conductor Eleazar de Carvalho the group Juventude Musical Brasileira (Brazilian Musical Youth). At 16, Chaves intensified his poetic production through his participation in the Grupo de Seresteiros de São Paulo (Group of Serenaders of São Paulo), which he founded with friends. In that period, his composition "Nas Águas de Saquarema" was interpreted by Leny Eversong on Rádio Nacional. In 1955, he became one of the founders of the Rua Augusta Chic magazine, where he published chronicles and poems.
Chaves' professional debut was at TV Tupi (São Paulo) in 1955, performing his first recital two years later, at the Leopoldo Fróes theater. In that period, he had already developed his style, inspired by minstrelsy, through which he satirized the political and economic status of Brazil. In the late '50s, he published his book of satirical poems Pincel da Sociedade; and in 1960 he recorded his first LP, As Duas Faces de Juca Chaves, in which he recovered the delicacy of the modinha ("Por Quem Sonha Ana Maria"), evidencing the influence of bossa nova in his singing. At the same time, he exercised his critical verve in "Nasal Sensual," a reference to his own (big) nose, and in "Presidente Bossa Nova," referring to the Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek, which brought him the first of several problems with censorship.
In 1963, Chaves exiled himself in Portugal, but, persecuted by the Salazar government, he went to Rome, Italy, where he lived for five years. In 1967, he had success with "Lé Com Lé, Cré Com Cré." Returning to Brazil in 1969, he ran through the country with the solo show Circo Sdruws, having been hired afterward by TV Record (São Paulo) to present the program Juca, Caviar e Mulher. His show Vá Tomar Caju, which opened at the Sucata club (Rio), was also presented in several cities of Brazil. In 1985, Chaves recorded O Menestrel do Brasil/Enfim (Quase) Livre, which brought forth the song "Rimas Sádicas," which had been forbidden by censorship in 1975. In the early '90s, he founded the independent recording company Sdruws Records, and in 1994 he inaugurated the Jucabaré/Theatro Inteligente theater in São Paulo. Two years later, he presented the show Juca Chaves, O Menestrel do Brasil, at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, backed up by the Camerata Atheneum and by the Coral Paulistano. ~ Alvaro Neder