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Sergio Mendes

For most of the second half of the '60s, Sergio Mendes was the top-selling Brazilian artist in the United States, charting huge hit singles and LPs that regularly made the Top Five. His records with his group, Brasil '66, regularly straddled the domestic pop and international markets in America, getting played heavily on AM radio stations, both rock and easy listening, and he gave his label, A&M, something to offer light jazz listeners beyond the work of the company's co-founder, Herb Alpert. During this period, he also became an international music star and one of the most popular musicians in South America.

Born the son of a physician in Niteroi, Brazil, Mendes began studying music at the local conservatory while still a boy, with the intention of becoming a classical pianist. He was living in Rio de Janeiro as the bossa nova craze hit in the mid- to late '50s, and at age 15, he abandoned classical music in favor of bossa nova. Mendes began spending time with other young Brazilian musicians in Rio de Janeiro, absorbing the musical ferment around him in the company of such figures as Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. Their company was augmented by the periodic visits of American jazz giants such as Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Byrd, Paul Winter, Roy Eldridge, and Herbie Mann. Mendes became the leader of his own group, the Sexteto Bossa Rio, and was heard with them by many visiting musicians. He made his first recording, Dance Moderno, in 1961 on the Philips Records label. By 1962, Mendes and his band were playing at Birdland in New York in an impromptu performance with Cannonball Adderley (who was officially on the bill). Mendes and Adderley cut an album together for Capitol Records that was released later that year.

His early music, represented on albums like Bossa Nova York and Girl from Ipanema, was heavily influenced by Antonio Carlos Jobim, on whose recording Mendes worked. Mendes liked what he had found on his visit to New York, and in 1964 he moved to the United States, initially to play on albums with Jobim and Art Farmer, and formed Brasil '65 the following year. The group recorded for Capitol without attracting too much notice at first. In 1966, however, Mendes and his band -- renamed Brasil '66 -- were signed to A&M Records and something seemed to click between the group and its audience.

The group, consisting in its first A&M incarnation of Mendes on keyboards, Bob Matthews on bass, João Palma on drums, Jose Soares as percussionist, Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert and A&M's co-founder) on vocals, and Janis Hansen on vocals, was successful upon the release of its first album for the label, with its mix of light jazz, a bossa nova beat, and contemporary soft pop melodies. Their self-titled debut LP rose to number six nationally, propelled by the presence of the single "Mas Que Nada." Their second album, Equinox, yielded a trio of minor hits, "Night and Day," "Constant Rain (Chove Chuva)," and "For Me," but their third, Look Around, rose to number five behind a number three single of the group's cover of the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill" and an accompanying hit with "Scarborough Fair," based on the Simon & Garfunkel version of the folk song. Crystal Illusions, from 1969, featured a version of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and the hit single "Pretty World." Depending upon one's sensibilities, these covers -- especially "Fool on the Hill" and "Scarborough Fair" -- were either legitimate, internationalized pop versions of the originals, or they were "elevator music."

During this period, Mendes also made several recordings for Atlantic Records separate from his A&M deal, principally aimed at a light jazz audience, and several of them in association with Jobim. Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Hubert Laws, and Claire Fisher were among the jazz figures who appeared on these records, which never remotely attracted the same level of interest or sales as his records with Brasil '66. Mendes successfully walked a fine line between international and domestic audiences for most of the late '60s until the end of the decade. Ye-Me-Le was notably less successful than its predecessors, and its single, "Wichita Lineman," was only a minor hit. Mendes seemed to lose his commercial edge with the turn of the decade, and his next two A&M albums: Stillness, a folk-based collection that contained covers of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth," and Primal Roots, an album of traditional Brazilian music, failed to make any impression on the charts whatsoever.

The group moved to the much smaller Bell Records label in 1973, and then Mendes jumped to Elektra for his first official solo album, Sergio Mendes. He relaunched his recording career two years later with Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77 to little avail, and then, after a five-year layoff from the public eye, Mendes returned to A&M in 1982. His 1983 comeback album, Sergio Mendes, was his first Top 40 album in nearly a decade and a half, and was accompanied by his biggest chart single ever, "Never Gonna Let You Go," which hit number four. Since then, Mendes has had limited chart success with the single "Alibis" and the LP Confetti. He remained a popular figure internationally, even when his record sales slumped in America, as evidenced by the fact that his entire A&M catalog (and much of his Atlantic work) from the '60s has been reissued on CD in Japan. Indeed, his popularity in the rest of the world, versus America, was even the basis for a comic vignette in one episode of the television series Seinfeld.

During the '90s, Mendes performed with a new group, Brasil '99, and more recently, Brasil 2000, and has been integrating the sounds of Bahian hip-hop into his music. In 1997, A&M's British division released a remastered double-CD set of the best of Mendes' music from his first seven years on the label. Most of Mendes' back catalog was reissued as the 21st century dawned, and in 2006, Concord Records released Timeless, his first album of newly recorded material in eight years. A mere two years later, Encanto appeared, including co-productions from will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas. A third album on Concord, Bom Tempo, was released in 2010. After appearances at numerous festivals and a global tour, Mendes took a short break before beginning to record again. He signed to Sony's revived OKeh imprint and cut a completely new set of songs in Los Angeles, Salvador, and Bahia, with a host of special guests and old friends, including John Legend, will.i.am., and Brazilian artists such as Carlinhos Brown, with whom he cut the first single, "One Nation," issued on One Love, One Rhythm: The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album. Mendes' album Magic was released in September. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Don't Say Goodbye (Feat. John Legend) (Single)

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Track List: Emorio (Paul Oakenfold Club Mix) (Single)

Comments

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Love...
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Quite the talent.
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chickaboomvi n t a g e
Sergio&Herb I hope you guys read how much we love your music
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chickaboomvi n t a g e
Sergio and Herb you take me to a place I can't go by any other. Thanks
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dragonlady60 8 8
Live this music sergio. And. Herb
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dragonlady60 8 8
I love this man and this Brazilian music
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Fun, well-crafted music
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I am in love with love and BOSSA NOVA !!!!
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dragonlady60 8 8
love this song...
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dragonlady60 8 8
i have listen to this mans. music for many a moon!""
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All time favorite...
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dragonlady60 8 8
Wow
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dragonlady60 8 8
I still love this song after. All these years Ty Serbia
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dragonlady60 8 8
He's the Best....Braz i l 66
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Played this album 'til there were no grooves left!
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"Just luv it, just luv it, i miss this song."
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dragonlady60 8 8
My have song by Sergio. Was in the movie ..Rio
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My introduction to great Latin Jazz....
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Love this amor
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dragonlady60 8 8
Sergio...one of the grts...!!
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artistmanfra n k
From In The Brazilian Bag, he's been The Pied Piper Of Brasil. Ultimate joy
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The Best Latina singer
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dragonlady60 8 8
excellant..s e r g i o . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r i o " " !
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scottgnc
It doesn't get much better! And, I don't even speak Spanish! Love this band, album and song!
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gijanesusarm y
Muito bom! I am a daughter of a Brazilian national and I had no idea this was sung by a Brazilian artist. It's one of my favorite songs.
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Sooooo love this song. Never get tired of it no matter how much I hear it in a day
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dragonlady60 8 8
sergio...one of the greatest brazilian musiv!!!
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SERGIO E UN GENIO ! GRAZIE !
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pepelehua
reminds me of old times
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Agua de beber yeaazzz
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Love this song takes me back Janice&Benny we were so in love 1982
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Wish they played this at clubs, so relaxing, makes me want to smoke a cigar n chill
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OMG! I put myself in the song
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Wow! Sexy music or what.lets go club dancing! ! Sergio !, to cool my brother! Thanks for teaching us style!
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I liked them even before I went to Brasil in 1969 as an exchange student. What fun it was to understand first-hand what they were singing! Today, I am a brasileira at heart.
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Samboleate
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I've been TOTALY in love with them since my folks turned me on to them in the 60's (I was VERY young)
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60's music = cool
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Good Song!
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Sergio mendes fa fa le le
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That's the spirit. .
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timeless in every way, brazilian music grounds me.
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Miss this music....wow memories
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Love Brazilian nusicl
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Music that's me happy....
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I Love this song! This is what happens when you let someone go and want them back for all the right reasons! I Love you Alicia Marie Elliott!
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Love this song!!!! fell in love with it in the movie dance with me! With Vanessa Williams.
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Rio 2 the animated movie.is coming out and almost sure Sergios music will be in it....maybe?
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Love this !
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This song came out when I was a college freshman. My roommates and I played it 100 times in a row, then piled 6 of us into a Triumph and drove to Giuseppes to drink 3.2 beer!!!
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